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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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AVID: targeting under-represented youth for university entrance

William DeJean
Sally Knipe
Dr. William DeJean is a lecturer in the School of Education at Macquarie University. Email: william.dejean@mq.edu.au. Dr. Sally Knipe is Course Co-ordinator for BEd (K–12 Middle Schooling), CSU Albury-Wodonga campus

The Australian Government is seeking to increase tertiary enrolment levels as a way to help Australia compete with the world's most successful economies. Earlier this year Julia Gillard, then Minister for Education, called for 300,000 more university enrolments by 2015.

Achieving such an increase would require greater tertiary participation by students who traditionally have not pursued university studies, and by implication it would also mean lifting school completion rates, especially amongst social categories where completion is lowest. Research from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY 2008) has found that young people who are most likely to leave school early are Indigenous, have parents employed in blue-collar occupations or other non-university backgrounds, or are low academic achievers at school. It is important that universities and schools work to ensure that all such students have the skill set needed to achieve success at tertiary level.

One program that pursues this goal is AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination).

The AVID program

AVID is a systemic program that prepares students in years 6–12 to enter tertiary education at the end of their high school studies. Most students who enrol in AVID are from low socio-economic backgrounds. Students are targeted during the middle years by teachers in the participating school, and are systemically supported throughout high school to gain entry into university.

Students who participate in AVID are placed in the most rigorous courses the middle school or high school offers. The program provides the students with tutors to help them through challenging coursework. Tutors are trained in the AVID curriculum, which is designed to offer academic assistance needed for success in these classes. The program also provides professional development to existing teachers, leaders and counsellors at their school.

AVID commenced operating in the USA in 1980. It now involves approximately 320,000 students in 4,000 schools across 16 countries. Funds are derived at the school and state level, and there is also philanthropic support from a range of companies, foundations and individuals.

In the USA the program has had demonstrable success. In 2009 nearly 70% of Hispanic or African American learners, more than 15% of learners from non-English backgrounds, and more than 60% of learners from low income backgrounds were offered tertiary places.

Many universities actively work to support AVID programs by offering scholarships for AVID students, recruiting university students to serve as tutors in AVID classrooms, and opening up their campuses through university tours and other outreach events. In turn, AVID helps participating universities to diversify their student body while increasing high academic standards.

The AVID program has now made a promising start in Australia.

AVID in Australia

Since last year an AVID program has been operating at Wodonga in Victoria's north east, where it has involved Wodonga Middle Years College and the local campus of Charles Sturt University.

In 2008 a team from the college, including the Deputy Principal, attended an AVID Summer Institute in the USA. These conferences provide professional development for teams of secondary school teachers and their feeder middle school teachers from schools where AVID is being implemented. The Institutes also train school counsellors and administrators in the program's methodologies.

The AVID program commenced at Wodonga Middle Years College in 2009. This year 40 Year 9 and 50 Year 8 students are enrolled in the program, and there are plans to expand its coverage into Year 7.

The program at the college is supported by the Wodonga campus of Charles Sturt University, which has created an active partnership with the AVID organisation. Each year the university provides the college with five pre-service teachers, enrolled in the Bachelor of Education (K–12 Middle Schooling), who work as tutors to assist participating students.

These tutors run two classes a week, using the AVID curriculum to unlock the content of the demanding courses in which they are enrolled. WICR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, and Reading) strategies form the basis of the curriculum. These strategies include: effective note taking; literacy support for rigorous coursework; essay writing skills; organisation and time management support; university and career preparatory work; and other strategies for academic achievement. The tutors also act as role models for young people in the AVID program.

The five pre-service teachers also travel to the USA to participate in a five day Summer Institute. Attending the Institute provides an opportunity for them to improve their teaching strategies as well as to work alongside current teachers. They also gain the opportunity to network with colleagues in another country and develop an international perspective on issues in teaching.

Other important elements of the AVID program are its support for leadership development, and engagement with the community and with students' families. Leadership development is explored in numerous capacities. For example, leaders from the local community are brought into the AVID classroom as guest speakers, these iclude university lecturers and students, business leaders, and community leaders. Students can practice taking effective notes while they learn about leadership and university success from members of the community. Guest speakers offer an important link between AVID students, the outside community and their thinking about leadership. Community service offers another opportunity to develop AVID student leadership capabilities.

Many AVID students are the first members of their family to attend university upon completion of their high school studies. As such, family outreach is an essential component to the AVID curriculum. Annually, AVID programs invite AVID families to back-to-school nights, end-of-the-year banquets, or to other AVID university information events. These programs support parents in understanding AVID, university entrance requirements and scholarship information. They are also designed to celebrate AVID students' success.

For more information about AVID and the structure of the AVID program visit www.avid.org or contact Dr. William DeJean for information about AVID within Australia.


Subject Headings

Teacher training
Educational planning
Tertiary education
Transitions in schooling
Middle schooling
Secondary education
Socially disadvantaged