AVID benefits are slight in Chicago study

AVID, which teaches study skills and tries to put average students on the college path, has spread across the country since its start in San Diego in 1980. But at 14 low-performing Chicago high schools, AVID didn’t improve grades significantly enough to put students on track for graduation, according to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, reports Ed Week.

In a report previewed (pdf) at the American Educational Research Association convention in New Orleans in April, researchers compared Chicago ninth graders participating in AVID with similar students who didn’t have access to AVID. After one year of the four-year program, AVID participants’  grades averaged 2.32 in English and 1.9 in mathematics on a 4-point scale, slightly higher than non-participants’ GPAs, but not good enough to be considered on track for graduation.  AVID didn’t improve reading, math or science test scores significantly.

Robert P. Gira, the executive vice president of the San Diego-based AVID, said the Chicago study was too short-term to be conclusive, because student academic gains from AVID build over a student’s high school career. “We expect 9th graders to be making some progress, but the real payoffs start to happen two to three years later,” Mr. Gira said.

AVID recruits students who aren’t on track for college but aren’t at the bottom of the class either. In my part of California, ninth graders must be prepared to take algebra, which California defines as an eighth-grade subject. (Not that most kids actually learn it in eighth grade.)  Students take college-prep classes and a daily AVID class, where they learn note-taking skills, time management and “critical thinking.” They also receive tutoring, counseling and help applying for college and financial aid.

Four years of a daily AVID class may not be the best use of time, Doug Rohrer, a psychology professor at the University of South Florida, told Ed Week.

“The critical question in my mind,” Mr. Rohrer continued, “is whether AVID is better than requiring students to go to another class, such as an extra dose of math or writing. Learning how to take notes is a fine strategy, but it might not help you in Algebra 2 if you haven’t learned Algebra 1.”

AVID was started at schools that mixed low-income and middle-class students, Ed Week reports. But it’s spread to predominantly low-income schools where AVID students aren’t really average: They’re the highest achievers around.

Chicago’s AVID students reported slightly better study habits than non-AVID peers, the study found. That may pay off over time. But “their classroom experiences are very similar to those of their classmates,” said Jenny Nagaoka, co-author of the study.

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