Yoncalla implements new program to help students succeed

Yoncalla School District has implemented an innovative program this school year aimed at engaging students and better preparing them for life after graduation.

Using Measure 98 funding allocated for career and college readiness programs, the district has introduced AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination. AVID is a nonprofit that helps schools shift to a more equitable, student-centered approach.

The district sent a team to the AVID national convention last summer in San Diego and returned with many innovative ideas for the school-wide launch this fall. Teachers for grades seven to 12 have been receiving training each week.

“It is already making a marked improvement with our middle school study skills,” said Brian Berry, district superintendent and high school principal. “We are seeing note taking, organizational skills and test preparation skills improving since the beginning of the school year. We are also seeing the high school staff adapting the sound teaching strategies of AVID to the high school students. Best teaching practices are best teaching practices no matter the level.”

Photo courtesy of Yoncalla School District
Eighth-grade AVID students participate in a tutorial. The students come prepared with a point of confusion from a class they are taking, and they are helped through it by their peers and a tutor from the high school leadership class. No student or tutor is able to tell them how to solve the problem; students must use inquiry or varied levels of questioning to get the presenter to come to the conclusion on their own.

AVID site coordinator Chelsea Ross has been teaching the AVID curriculum to staff as well as writing grants to help fund other aspects of the program. Ross recently answered a few questions from Douglas County Partners for Student Success and provided more insight into the program.

DCPSS: What are some specific examples of how AVID is used in classrooms?

Ross: AVID is used many ways in the classrooms in Yoncalla, but two specific examples include WICOR and Focused Note Taking. WICOR is an acronym for five best practice areas: Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading. Teachers look to use two of these five areas of WICOR in each lesson they teach so that we are creating interactive, engaging and rigorous classes. AVID is also used in classrooms at YHS through Focused Note Taking. Teachers use the five phases – taking notes, processing notes, connecting thinking, summarize and reflect, and apply learning. These focused notes are done in all classes and in various forms.

DCPSS: How have teachers responded to the training?

Ross: Teachers have responded really well to the training. Three teachers, as well as Brian Berry, our superintendent/high school principal, attended the AVID Summer Institute, an intense three-plus day training on the AVID curriculum and specifically how this curriculum relates to certain subject/content areas. Throughout the year, teachers – both those who attended the Summer Institute and those who were unable to – are receiving in-house professional development. Various staff will be also be sent to AVID Path Trainings throughout the state in the spring intended to deepen the program in the district.

Photo courtesy of Yoncalla School District
Eighth-grade AVID students participate in a tutorial.

DCPSS: How have students responded?

Ross: Students have also responded really well to the program. Most of the seventh and eighth-grade students are enrolled in the AVID Elective in addition to seeing the AVID best practices in their content classes. Students are more engaged, they’re more prepared for class, and overall, their GPAs are higher. Students get to support and encourage each other, and our middle school program has developed a stronger community.

DCPSS: Why do you think AVID is a good program for Yoncalla School District?

Ross: Being in such a small school and district, teachers play many roles. AVID provides a school-wide opportunity for teachers to see best practices and gain new ideas from each other and have the opportunity to use these in their classes. AVID is also great for Yoncalla students because it’s preparing them with critical skills. These skills, like organization, note taking, positive study skills and critical thinking skills, will provide students with the best opportunity to succeed in their high school and post-secondary goals.

Leave a Reply