AVID Program at Lincoln High a National Model

Students talking in classroom.

For the second year in a row, Lincoln High School was a national showcase for the AVID program.

For the second year in a row Lincoln High was chosen as the only showcase school in Iowa by AVID, a national program aimed at college readiness for students who would be the first generation of their families to pursue post-secondary degrees.

Advancement Via Individual Determination is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap. Established more than 35 years ago, today AVID impacts nearly 1.5 million students in 46 states and 16 other countries/territories.

Established in 2011 at Lincoln, AVID grads numbered 40 in the school’s Class of 2016. They were offered in excess of $2.8 million worth of college scholarships so it’s no wonder there are plenty more following in those first footsteps.

Wednesday’s showcase event included classroom visits by officials from neighboring school districts and panel discussions in the school library. Students guided the tours and were part of the panels and they are impressive ambassadors.

Remember the old concept of study hall? AVID’s version is tutorials in the form of Socratic seminars where students lead and learn from each other. Teachers become facilitators of lively, wide-ranging discussions instead of lecturers.

Mike Masteller’s classroom was abuzz Wednesday morning. A whiteboard on one side of the room read How do I find electron configuration? On the opposite side another small group considered Were the colonists justified in rebelling against Great Britain?

Chemistry, American history – and Masteller’s nominally an English teacher! His room hummed with the language of learning, student-to-student.

Sharing her experience with curious visitors, Kim O’Donnell, the district’s AVID Coordinator and a School Improvement Leader at Lincoln, told them that in five years AVID has grown from an experimental novelty to “become part of the fabric here.” From an initial 9th grade cohort of 55 students AVID has added a grade level each year and now serves 285 students at Lincoln through 49 AVID-trained staff members.

The AVID curriculum spans all levels, elementary through high school, and since its inception at Lincoln the program has expanded to McCombs, one of Lincoln’s feeder middle schools.

“Identifying students and recruiting them into AVID gets easier every year,” O’Donnell said, “because now they already know about it when they get here and are eager to apply.”

That’s right, apply. AVID is selective. Targeted students fall in the midrange of academic achievement when they are accepted and sign what’s really a contract. They agree to all sorts of terms/opportunities like fieldtrips to college campuses. Trifold student exhibits on display in the library during the showcase suggested that one of the things AVID students learn is to revise their educational goals upward. Virtually every one included some variation of the following objective: “To get all As and Bs in high school and eventually graduate from a college or university.”

Besides traditional college prep coursework at the AP level, AVID student schedules include an elective block that features the tutorials and campus visits as well as training in practical skills like time management and organization. When their time comes, they are ready in all ways.

Wednesday’s showcase began with a breakfast for guests and also included lunch. But what visitors really feasted on was watching AVID in action. Business looked to be booming at this educational eatery.

Scrawl Abe & Socrates eat here on a whiteboard and discuss.

Photos of AVID Showcase at Lincoln

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