By Tommy Stokes, AVID Coordinator, Moreno Valley High School
Twenty nine of 556 - that is the number of seniors who went straight to a four-year college in 2001, the year Moreno Valley High School first implemented AVID. Since 2005, we are proud to have exceeded that number yearly with AVID seniors alone. But with AVID students totaling less than 25 percent of the school, we still needed to increase the percentage of college-going students schoolwide.
Having strong leadership is vital in getting AVID spread schoolwide, and it starts with the administration. At Moreno Valley High School, we have an administrative team that believes AVID truly works not only in getting kids into college, but by providing strategies that assist all students in closing the achievement gap. Secondly, administration provides support in the form of sending non-AVID teachers to AVID training. Currently, 57 staff members of MVHS have attended 131 AVID trainings, such as Summer Institute and Write Path, while all teachers have received AVID training by AVID teachers in areas like focused note-taking and Socratic seminars. In 2006, the current principal, Maribel Mattox, came to MVHS. That same year I took over as the AVID Coordinator. In the six years since, the program has grown from 35 to 80 seniors and 250 to nearly 600 students.
One of the first actions I took when I became the coordinator was asking for one AVID counselor, Philip Peeples. At the time, counselors had all students split by alpha. This created more work for all parties involved when it came down to scheduling. With the support of administration, the counselors unanimously voted for the change. In the years since, I have seen a transformation in the guidance department. Of course the main focus was ensuring students graduate from high school, but now the counselors encourage our students to challenge themselves by taking more rigorous classes and setting college as a goal.
A strong AVID site team is necessary to uphold the strength of the program and AVID strategies schoolwide. The MVHS site team currently consists of members from all core subjects, in addition to the PE, ROTC, Business, and World Language departments. Having members from each department is integral, as the site team members can share AVID strategies at department meetings and in their professional learning communities, strengthening the growth of AVID schoolwide. Including site team members from each department has also bolstered our efforts to increase the number of rigorous courses offered. In 2001, MVHS had 20 Honors and AP courses with 404 student enrollments. In 2012, we had 81 Honors and AP courses with 2,077 enrollments. This increase could not have occurred without AVID and its strong site team.
The impact of our AVID program has spread beyond the walls of our school as well. MVHS AVID is now a leader within the district. We host quarterly district coordinator workshops. We lead districtwide fundraisers, such as the Christmas tree farm last year, where we raised over $4,000 for seven district schools. Now that our district is piloting elementary AVID at three schools, I am working closely with those schools. Within the region, MVHS AVID has become a leader. We have hosted at least a dozen visits from other AVID schools since 2008 when we became an AVID National Demonstration School. Schools not only come to observe the AVID methodology within the classrooms, but the dynamics of the specialty courses MVHS implemented—the All-Male AVID 9 class, the AVID ROTC 9 and 10 classes, and the AVID All-Athletic 10 class. Additionally, Principal Maribel Mattox, Counselor Philip Peeples, and I have been asked to speak on many occasions on topics such as how MVHS incorporates AVID into the master schedule, its specialty courses, and the development of AVID EL courses.
We are proud of our AVID college readiness system at Moreno Valley High School. We have worked with thousands of students who hopefully have learned from us, not only how to be successful in college, but in life. I truly believe that we have transformed Moreno Valley High School from a pariah a decade ago, with students transferring out in droves, to a school with a college going culture, with students transferring in to be a part of our AVID family. I believe the success of our school is based on the belief that AVID schoolwide works, with the support of the administration, counselors, and site team. But our work is still not done. I want to continue increasing the rigor in the classroom; I want to improve test scores; I want Moreno Valley High School to be known as the best school in the country for readying students for college.
Tommy Stokes is in his 15th year teaching at Moreno Valley High School in Moreno Valley, CA. He has a BA in History form CSU San Bernardino and a MA in Curriculum and Instruction form Chapman University. He began teaching AVID in the fall of 2004 with a single AVID 9 class and took over as coordinator in January, 2006. MVHS AVID became a National Demonstration Site in November, 2008. Tommy loves working with his AVID colleagues, including leading sessions at the RIMS Coordinators’ Workshops, teaching Tutorology to tutors, and training Implementation at Summer Institute. In May, 2012, Tommy was named the Riverside County Teacher of the Year. In his spare time, he enjoys vacationing with his wife Marisol and three boys, Thomas, Matthew, and Luke and playing golf.