Program targets average underachievers

Sunday, January 27, 2002

WICHITA, Kan. -- Teaching the first group of students in North High's AVID program to get organized and study has been like convincing a couch potato to exercise daily, their teachers said.

Before this school year, the 29 freshmen had never been expected -- by family, friends, teachers, counselors or even themselves -- to take honors courses or do hours of homework daily.

But that lack of expectations is exactly why they were chosen for the Advancement Via Individual Determination program. AVID includes a daily class, where they get tutoring and learn study skills. And the program makes them accountable if they don't do the work.

"These kids would have been OK without AVID," teacher Stacie Valdez said. "They would have been in regular classes doing OK."

Now, they are in honors classes. Eight students made the honor roll this fall. And they are considering college.

"We're looking more at kids that are almost making it to give a boost," counselor Mary Navarro said.

The AVID program was founded at a San Diego high school in 1980. This year 2,200 schools worldwide were expected to use the curriculum.

North High is the first Kansas high school using the program, which cost the district $30,995 for training and curriculum in the first year and will cost roughly $4,000 a year after that.

Recognizing potential

Some of the North High AVID students had attendance problems in middle school, missing 10 or 15 days each. Few people in the students' families graduated from college, and few of the students considered college.

But all of the students had to show academic potential, either on a standardized test or in class, to be admitted.

AVID students may gripe about the hefty three-inch binder they must carry everywhere and about the structured note-taking they're required to do.

But the students said their friends had noticed the work they were doing this fall.

"My friends always copy," AVID student Charles Steele said.

The students are starting to realize their work will pay off.

"It gets you to start thinking about your future," Jessica Eichbauer said.

In the freshman year, teachers introduce the idea of college. In later years, the students will visit college campuses.

Along with rigorous courses, the program provides tutoring a few times a week during the regular AVID class period. All four tutors are recent North High graduates and Wichita State University students.

At other times during class, students learn study skills and note-taking techniques, and they have time to work on projects.

One of the biggest goals is to teach students to see their own potential.

"I think just the fact that you believe in them makes a difference," Valdez said.

AVID parents, such as Stan Dexter, said they have already seen improvement in their children.

"We just feel like he has the talent there that will shine through if he is challenged," Dexter said of his son Kevin.

Victor Aguirre's mother, Lilia Pavon, said she encouraged him to join AVID because she recognizes the talents he has.

Pavon speaks only Spanish, but her son has had four years in the country to learn English before joining AVID and taking honors classes.

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