Twenty-five seventh-graders at Milton Middle School will be starting the new year with determination. Selected by teachers and administration in spring, they will be the first to participate in an AVID elective course. AVID stands for “Advancement Via Individual Determination.”
School District of Milton Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ryan Ruggles clarified AVID is not an alternative education program.
Rather, he said it’s both an elective class and a school-wide approach to teaching.
“AVID started as a program for students that were kind of academically in the middle,” he said. “It was geared towards first-generation college students or students who might need a little extra help getting ready for college.”
According to the AVID website, its history goes back to 1980, when teachers at Clairemont High School had low expectations for students bused in from disadvantaged areas of San Diego, which caused a belief that the students could not succeed. Mary Catherine Swanson, English department head and teacher, believed if students were willing to work hard she could teach them the skills needed to be college-ready.
Today the nonprofit aims to change lives by helping schools shift to a more equitable, student-centered approach. AVID is implemented in more than 6,400 schools in 47 states and impacts nearly 2 million students in grades K–12 and 50 postsecondary institutions.
Looking at the school-wide approach, Ruggles said AVID strategies are applied to the areas of writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading (WICOR). He described the strategies used as engaging.
He has seen AVID used before in another school district and said, “It just takes our teachers to another level.”
AVID on its website states: “We offer turn-key teaching techniques and classroom activities that educators can easily incorporate in their classrooms. … AVID doesn’t change what is taught; it changes how material is taught, respecting teachers’ expertise and providing flexibility.”
The School District of Milton sent six administrators, 10 teachers and a school counselor to the AVID Summer Institute in Minneapolis. Each teacher attended strands based on their level of interaction with the program and content area. Those who went to the AVID Summer Institute are sharing their knowledge with others in the district this month.
When school starts next month, the 25 seventh graders twice a week will have instruction and twice a week they will work with tutors. Fridays will be set aside for things such as team building, guest speakers, college visits and business tours.
Mandy Tukiendorf, English language learner and coordinator, has been assigned teach the seventh-grade AVID elective class.
Ruggles predicts one of the biggest challenges for the district will be finding tutors to meet with students twice a week. In the past, he said AVID has encouraged districts to recruit college students as tutors. He noted Milton is fortunate to be close to Blackhawk Technical College and UW-Whitewater.
Students who are enrolled in the AVID elective class are neither those who are really struggling nor are they the best students, said Ruggles, rather, they’re in the middle.
“They are students who just need that extra support to be doing really well,” he said.
To participate in AVID, students must want to be part of the program and apply.
As the seventh graders advance to the next grade level, Ruggles said the AVID elective class will be added to that grade level.
In high school, Ruggles said AVID students will be encouraged to take at least one AP course.
Ultimately, when they graduate from Milton High School, he said the goal is to ensure they are “future ready.”
It’s a term Ruggles said he likes because it’s not specific, it embraces college, career and military readiness.
“That’s our job, to get kids ready,” he said, adding it’s not to dictate students should go to college, but to ensure that they could go if they want to.
“Students decide if they want to move on to work, they want to move on military, they want to move on to college, but they have those options to go whichever direction they want to go,” he said.