The movie Waiting for ”Superman” brings audiences face-to-face with a true American tragedy: the broken state of our public schools. While the documentary is stirring debate about how to fix our education system, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Unfortunately, many viewers walk out of the movie mistakenly convinced that specially created schools, like charter schools, are the only option for students from impoverished areas to obtain a good education. Not true.
What the movie doesn’t tell viewers is that successful college readiness programs, like AVID, are working in our schools every day. Furthermore, participating in these programs does not require a winning lottery number or a superhero. In fact, chances are, no matter where you live you will find an AVID program in your school or in a neighboring school district. Now in its 30th year, AVID is in 4,500 schools spread throughout 47 states, making it one of the nation’s largest college readiness programs, and, in my opinion, the best. Every day across the country more than 400,000 students are being rescued by AVID “super” teachers.
Help for our children—real help that doesn’t have to leap from the pages of a comic book—is already here. A survey of 2010 AVID seniors showed that 99.6% graduated from high school and 91% were planning to attend a postsecondary institution. Why? Because they passed college prep classes at rates that far exceed their peers. Consequently, a whopping 91% of AVID students complete four-year college requirements compared to only 36% of all students. These are the same kinds of students shown in Waiting for “Superman.” From all demographic backgrounds, more than half of AVID students are Latino, 17% are African-American, and 67% are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs.
Waiting for a winning lottery number in order to attend a charter school, as shown in Waiting for “Superman,” is stressful, overwhelming, and often disappointing for both students and parents. The good news is no special schools are needed for AVID; instead, AVID trains local teachers to help local students achieve extraordinary results. From the poorest neighborhoods in New York City to suburban Sonoma, California, and back to rural Kansas, AVID can be implemented at any school in any neighborhood cost-effectively, and enrollment in AVID is not limited to a select few.
What makes AVID students successful? First and foremost, AVID students learn to believe in themselves, and they learn that working hard makes you smart. Instilling confidence and determination in students is fundamental to their success and is also central to the training we give AVID teachers. Each year we train more than 20,000 good teachers to be great teachers and to believe that all of their students can succeed using our time-tested system that combines critical thinking, organization skills, effective note-taking and summarizing, rigorous academics, tutoring, and peer and teacher encouragement. Most AVID students are the first in their family to attend college. With AVID they meet academic challenges; they gain the knowledge, confidence, and skills that are necessary for them to continue their education. In AVID, “C” students become “A” students, kids with potential see that college is a possibility, and middle-of-the road students achieve at their highest level.
Waiting for “Superman” does not tell the whole story. Every day in schools across America and beyond, AVID is rescuing thousands of students just like those in the movie who are typically overlooked and underserved. Instead of waiting, these AVID students rise above obstacles to achieve academic success. No lottery or superhero required.