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The Not-So-Secret Formula to Student Success

By Jinan N. Sumler, Northeast States Director, AVID Center

A recent New York Times article reported that New York State students are not graduating from high school college-ready.  The numbers looked grim.  In 2009, only 23% of New York City students graduated college or career ready, and in urban districts in upstate New York, less than 17 percent met standards.  The article went on to say that, New York State education officials are now doing a state tour considering a variety of solutions like increasing the Regents (state test) passing score; making standardized tests more difficult; and increasing flexibility in the number of Regents exams a student has to pass.  To lower the bar or raise the bar, that is the question.

Raising standards and expecting more out of our children can be beneficial, but it’s not enough (and why would we lower standards?).  Frankly, if raising the bar were all we had to do, we would see tremendous success in many places.  Too often we turn to the opposite solution: lower the bar and then praise ourselves for a job well done when scores are higher.  At the end of the day, we’ve done nothing but hurt our students because they still aren’t prepared for life after high school.  Here’s an idea: Raise the bar and give students the skills they need to be successful.  When we ask students to meet higher standards without changing the way we do school, it’s like telling a student to compete in the Olympics wihtout providing a coach or training. 

So, what does it mean to be a college-ready student?  Does it mean exposure to college students, college campuses, college financial services, and college expectations for academic success?  Or maybe it means taking AP and honors classes, completing Algebra in the 8th grade? How about developing critical thinking skills or learning how to write in mathematics and science? Imagine a classroom where students add all of these skills and experiences to their educational vitae.  Then a successful college experience is most definitely in their future.  This imaginary classroom exists.  This classroom is an AVID classroom.

AVID’s college readiness system works, and students in New York classrooms are proving it every day.  There are AVID classes in New York City, Syracuse, Rochester, Ithaca, East Irondequoit, Lyndonville, Ramapo and White Plains.

  • In New York City, 100% of AVID students graduated from high school and 95% completed college entrance requirements.  Students applied to schools like Fordham, Hofstra, Columbia, Harvard, MIT, Penn State and NYU.
  • Rochester AVID students outscored non-AVID students on the NY State Regents.  In ELA, 83% scored a 65 or higher (compared to 63% in the district).
  • In Syracuse, 95% of AVID students graduated and 84% of juniors and seniors took AP or IB classes.
  • Nationally, the average proportion of AVID seniors completing college entrance requirements, regardless of ethnicity, ranges from 87-93%.  This is compared to national averages of non-AVID students ranging from 21-49%.

Former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein engages in a Socratic Seminar with AVID students at a high school in NYC. During his visit Mr. Klein said, AVID sets high expectations for students and creates a culture of success.

There are AVID success stories all around the world.  And yet, we are still looking for solutions, still choosing between the red pill and the blue pill…. In truth, the formula is simple:

1 bushel of students with determination in their eyes

1 part outstanding administrator carrying a torch and wearing overalls

Equal parts quality teachers with unwavering expectations

Plenty of district support

Daily doses of writing, inquiry, collaboration, reading and organization

Unlimited amount of patience and perseverance

Mix together with intention and care

**for more flavor, add in Socratic seminars, guest speakers, and trips to local colleges and universities**

With more than 30 years of experience and always putting students at the forefront of all decisions, AVID educators know how to do school, and they teach students the necessary skills so they will be college ready.  Achievement Gap? Ha!  AVID is building bridges to prepare all students for college readiness and success.  What’s your formula?

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Reader Comments (5)

Love it Ms. Sumler.

AVID program with patience, perseverance, intention and care.


February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMKB

What an interesting post. I am so happy to hear of such an organization. I myself was introduced to AVID recently. In fact, I will be speaking with an AVID group in Lewisville, TX this month. As a teen, I would have GREATLY benefiited from the set of values that AVID rests on. May this program thrive and narrow that achievment gap!

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia Miller Mauro

I couldn't agree more with Jinan Sumler's description of the AVID classroom! And I would highlight her simple formula -- this is not an overnight transformation. What happens in the AVID classroom takes time (years, even); patience and perseverence IS needed, and sometimes in the beginning the road is bumpy. But, the efforts of everyone involved will pay off--trust me. I continue to be so very proud of my AVID graduates who out there in the world doing amazing things -- they are writers, nurses, teachers, businessmen and businesswomen...the list goes on and on. And just this past week, my mother met an AVID graduate from South Lake Tahoe who is in the peace corps in Panama. These are the kinds of stories that I love to hear -- AVID graduates working to make their world a better place for everyone!

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

My 14 year old son is currently enrolled in a middle school AVID class. He has enjoyed his first year of AVID and often praises his AVID teacher. The class recently took an all day field trip to Chapman University to expose the students to a University campus. My son is an average student and has struggled in school. My husband and I work hard to keep him on track, but it is such a blessing to have the support of his AVID class. He has already mentioned attending a UC school when he graduates. We are looking forward to his experience in High School knowing that he will gain additional tools through AVID.

March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Banks


We appreciate your comments. Please let us know how your son is doing. Your involvement in your son's education makes a huge difference. Keep up the good work.

March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob Gira

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