by Cori Hilsgen
Kennedy staff members are working with fifth- and sixth-grade students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination program to help prepare students for their futures.
Three Kennedy teachers and principal Dr. Judy Nagel trained for the program last summer. They currently have three AVID classrooms, but they can use and implement some of the strategies in all of the fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms.
The AVID program is part of the district’s five-year strategic plan, which now guides all of its work. It also ties in with its mission of preparing, engaging, educating, empowering and inspiring all students. AVID also connects with new legislation for world’s best work force.
The program brings research-based curriculum and strategies to schools from the elementary to post-secondary levels. AVID focuses on providing academic and social support, especially to students most under-represented in post-secondary schools.
While holding students accountable to high standards, the program focuses on what needs to be done at the middle-school level to better prepare for the high-school level and to better prepare for the post-secondary environment.
During this first year of the program, Kennedy students are learning note-taking strategies. Faculty and staff at Kennedy are focusing on an organizational system for the students. Although students have always been working on organizational systems and processes, teachers are now teaching it in a different way or adding some elements to it.
While students organize their agendas or planners, note-taking strategies are taught during their math, science and social-studies classrooms and more. Nagel said other specific instructional strategies will be added later.
She said students are taught two-column note taking. This is a strategy used to help students learn how to organize their material and important information from classes so they can then use that information to review their notes and/or prepare for tests.
One element of the program focuses on promoting a scholarly and academic environment where all students are planning and seeing their future. They plan for what their future would look like and work on those skills and strategies at the elementary level.
Students plan for what they will be doing after high school and prepare to attend a college or technical college for what would be the next level. They plan for skills they will need in an academic environment.
Nagel said they have really started to promote a more scholarly or academic environment at Kennedy, to help encourage students to talk about and think about their futures. In the Media Center, they have started a career center with information about colleges and universities. Posters, pennants and banners from various colleges and universities are now hanging on walls around the school.
Teachers and other staff now have “All About Me” signs by their doors listing where they have gone to college or technical school or whatever. This encourages and prompts conversations about post-secondary schools and career choices.
Faculty, staff and students recently had a college and university day where everyone was encouraged to wear college and university apparel to promote the scholarly environment. Nagel said they plan to have several more of these days during the school year.
“The AVID program has been a wonderful addition to our fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms,” Nagel said. “Students, families and staff have done an excellent job working together to incorporate the foundational elements of the AVID program. We will continue to foster an academic environment where all students can begin to think about, dream and make plans for what they will do after high school, and the AVID program helps to prepare them for that.”
Eight buildings in the St. Cloud School district trained for the program this summer. Many buildings are implementing the program with fourth- and fifth-grade students. Future plans involve working with students from fourth through 12th grade.
The AVID program began in 1980 in San Diego, Calif. when English teacher Mary Catherine Swanson believed if students were willing to work hard she could teach them to be prepared for universities, during a time when many of her colleagues believed the students would not succeed.
Although Swanson began the program with many protests from her students, it led to increased abilities for organizing binders and note taking. It also increased students’ confidence levels in their abilities to have academic success and led to college admissions.
The AVID program began with 32 students and is now reaching millions of students.