Guest post by Nick Nelson

During the 2015–16 school year, The Dalles High School in Oregon was awarded a state grant for AVID training. We didn’t know much about AVID at the time, just that it was a philosophy centered on writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading, and that its goal was to close the achievement gap.

The grant allowed a team of five teaching staff, me, and one additional administrator to attend the initial summer AVID-training session. After that session, our team began to grasp more concretely the significance of what we were involved in and the potential impact AVID could have on our instructional practice with targeted students and schoolwide. What we didn’t know was how instrumental AVID would be in creating a powerful cultural transformation for our high school.

What Is AVID?

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. The mission of the AVID organization is “to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.” AVID helps schools create engaging, rigorous, and student-centered learning environments by training teachers to develop critical thinking, literacy, and math skills in students through research-based strategies and curriculum.

The purpose of AVID is to:

  • Teach skills and behaviors for academic success
  • Provide intensive support with tutorials and strong student/teacher relationships
  • Create a positive peer group for students
  • Develop a sense of hope for personal achievement gained through hard work and determination

Implementing AVID

Once we became trained, we launched the AVID system in the 2016–17 school year. Multiple teachers who attended Summer Institute Training integrated AVID strategies into their classrooms, including the Cornell note-taking system and organizational binders. In addition, we created one AVID elective class for 10th graders that utilized the AVID strategies to develop the skills necessary for the students’ success in high school. In the 2017–18 school year, we added another AVID elective class, expanding our elective coverage to grades 10 and 11. We continued to expand our schoolwide effort through regular staff development sessions that covered how to implement AVID strategies across multiple subject areas.

For the 2018–19 school year, we are adding two additional AVID electives to provide an AVID elective at each grade level plus expand AVID to our middle school eighth graders. Another goal is to implement AVID’s College Readiness System schoolwide, which means teachers will be using AVID strategies in all content areas. To support our teachers in this goal, our AVID Site Team will continue to provide regular AVID professional development activities for teachers. Also, 25 high school and middle level staff members will attend the AVID Summer Institute in July.

Positive Growth

Now in its second year at our school, the AVID system shows promise and positive results. Key academic, behavioral, and attendance indicators continue to substantiate our efforts on this pathway. We have 35 students enrolled in the two AVID elective classes who plan to continue with AVID electives for their 11th- and 12th-grade years. Our goal for the 2018–19 school year is to have more than 100 kids, grades 8–12, participating in the AVID elective. In addition, AVID has been very well received by parents and staff who appreciate the additional support. We are encouraged by our progress thus far and are looking forward to seeing how AVID continues to transform our school.

Could a program like AVID help your school’s students develop the academic skills and the mindset needed for school success? For additional information, check out the national AVID website at

Nick Nelson is the principal of The Dalles High School in Oregon. He was the 2017 Oregon High School Principal of the Year.

About the Author

Nick Nelson is the principal of The Dalles High School in Oregon. He was the 2017 Oregon High School Principal of the Year.

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