Preparing for a Future of Learning at Taylorsville High School
Sep 15, 2015 10:33AM ● Published by Bryan Scott
By Stephanie Lauritzen
Taylorsville - AVID (Advancement Via Independent Determination) is a college readiness program designed to help high school students prepare for college. Three years ago, Taylorsville High School received funding for AVID from Salt Lake Community College’s “Gear Up” grant initiative. Now entering the fourth year of the program, AVID teacher Jennifer Johnson credits AVID for creating a “college readiness atmosphere” in the school.
After researching the program, Johnson remembers thinking, “This program was made for me to teach; I love working with kids that don’t always see what they are capable of.”
Johnson believes AVID gives students the support and structure necessary to help students realize, “I can do this,” when preparing for college.
“I believe in this passionately; I became a teacher to teach programs like this,” she said.
Bryan Good first started working in the AVID program at Granite High School, one of the first AVID programs in the state of Utah. After transferring to Taylorsville High, Good continued to use the strategies promoted by AVID in his regular education classes. He now teaches AVID classes with Johnson and shares her passion for the program.
“I became a teacher to give kids a better life and help them see a path they might not have taken before. It’s amazing to help kids realize their potential and achieve things they never dreamed they could achieve before,” he said.
AVID students enroll in an elective grade-level class where they meet with Johnson and Good to develop a “path of rigor” for their academic classes.
“We really work hard as a team to determine ‘What is rigor?’ for each individual student,” Johnson said.
AVID students also receive help from their counselors and non-AVID teachers. Taylorville’s math teachers provide daily math tutoring, and AVID students use the Monday morning late-start schedule to receive additional tutoring or work on homework.
In the class itself, Good and Johnson teach learning strategies using AVID’s WICOR model to strengthen student skills in writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. Good considers WICOR skills “essential in surviving those harder classes and creating a college-ready student. This isn’t remediation tutoring; this program helps students develop deeper understanding of the things they are learning.”
When Johnson talks to parents about enrolling their student in the AVID program, she starts by asking, “Do you want your student to go to college?” Johnson believes most parents want to support their child in pursuing higher education, but recognizes the challenges, especially for first-generation college students.
“Parents want to help their students succeed but don’t understand the process for getting into college: the application, financial aid, going on college tours,” she said.
Johnson believes AVID can help students and families prepare for college by teaching students to recognize “what kind of grades they need, how to write an essay, or solve a math problem. Our goal in AVID is to use the support inside the building to help students, so that when they graduate and step into college classes next fall, they aren’t blown away.”
Like Good, Johnson does not see AVID as a “remedial” program. “This is for students who can go to college. This is not for students who are failing every class and need a magic pill.” However, Johnson also believes, “AVID is for everyone. Sometimes people think, ‘Oh, I need to be a smart kid, or an AP kid.’ No, anybody can be an AVID student.” Good agrees. “AVID targets the middle demographic. We want those kids that are doing okay, but could do better.”
Good believes that the key to a successful AVID student lies in student choice. “It can’t be the parent forcing them to be here … The student has to be invested as well,” he said.
Johnson encourages parents to support their AVID student by engaging them in conversations about their learning. “Ask them, ‘What did you do in English class today? What did you learn about in history today?’”
Johnson and Good work together to create a progressive program that helps students build on learning skills throughout their high school career. Good hopes that “as students take more rigorous classes, they’ll ask, ‘How can I take the skills I learned in AVID and apply it?’ We want our students to see how AVID can help them in their other classes.”
Johnson wants future AVID students to know, “You’re going to work your butt off, and this is going to be hard … But by senior year, you’ll be a family.” Good agrees. “At the end of the day, kids get a lot more from structure and high expectations.”