In 1980, Mary-Catherine Swanson, a high school teacher in southern California, noticed that the students coming into her classroom were different from the ones before them. Not just because the district had recently began busing in students from other neighborhoods who looked different, but because the new students came from dramatically different educational backgrounds. These students – undoubtedly capable of meeting the high expectations set for their peers–hadn’t been key foundational skills. Mary-Catherine decided to create the program that would come to be known as AVID–founded on the belief that if students were willing to work hard, they could be taught the skills needed to be college-ready.
Her focus on improving their writing, time-management, and note-taking led to substantial results—so good, in fact, that she was initially accused of falsifying records to make her students look better! But when Mary-Catherine was able to replicate these effects year after year, her effort began to garner local–and then national–attention. Today, AVID is offered in over 6,000 schools serving 2.0 million students nationwide.
AVID helps educators refine their teaching skills to better provide the foundational instruction to help ALL students succeed in school and beyond. As a non-profit organization, we continue to work with district leaders, principals, teachers, and researchers to scale innovative methodologies that resonate with today’s students.
We serve diverse populations across the United States, and the impact our approach has had on students is remarkable–especially when considering that the AVID student often comes from a population that is under-represented in college, including students eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL). We have noticed that in our more suburban districts, which are now serving more diverse populations, AVID has also become a go-to partner.
For instance, increased enrollment of students with diverse backgrounds prompted North Clackamas School District in Oregon to adopt the AVID system as a tool to ensure that students received equitable learning experiences. Since implementing the program, they have seen an increase in the overall graduation rate – closing the gaps between students of color and their white peers. District Superintendent Matt Utterback, the 2017 Superintendent of the Year, sums it up this way – “the AVID programs supported the district in opening doors for all students.”
In 2016, AVID seniors enrolled in college at a rate of 71 percent, higher than the national average of 69 percent. This is especially significant because the AVID students come from below-average socioeconomic circumstances and are often the first in their families to attend college.
As a Superintendent in three different districts, I was able to coach leaders to impact educators who served almost 75,000 students. We often spoke about the importance of equity – how our behavior as adults could influence a child’s perception of themselves. I remembered developing relationships with families within our district who were dealing with unimaginable economic and social struggles.
Through these connections, learned two things: First, most parents, regardless of background, truly want better futures for their kids. Secondly, our teachers, by challenging their students to achieve academically and by supporting them emotionally, could make a huge difference in outcomes.
AVID has made that difference in many cases – when families find themselves without the resources they need, it is a lifeline for future success.
Seeing AVID positively influence thousands of students as a district superintendent was inspirational. So, when I had the opportunity to join AVID as the CEO in 2014, I considered it a privilege.
The millions that have experienced transformation because of their involvement with AVID have been deeply influential in my thinking as a leader–and in the intellectual growth of our organization. When I began to understand the profound ways in which the lives of both students and educators were being changed, I knew that I wanted to contribute, too.
This week you all are in for a treat as we take a deeper dive into equity — and spotlight some of the perspectives of AVID. You’ll hear from one of my colleagues working directly with teachers to create an equitable learning experience, from a former superintendent on equity across a district, from a principal on how AVID and its focus on equity expanded opportunity for all students on his campus, and from a student on how being a part of the AVID program gave her access to her greatest treasure. #ThisIsAVID
Dr. Sandy Husk joined AVID as the CEO in 2014. Prior to joining she served as superintendent in three school districts, including Salem-Keizer Public Schools School district, Oregon’s second-largest school district. Sandy is responsible for implementing AVID’s strategic imperatives, which include furthering its mission of closing the achievement gap and preparing all students for college.With nearly two decades in education Husk has made it her goal to ensure that all students have access to an equitable education.