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by Kathy Arno, Project Manager, AVID Center 

 “The United States needs more students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Our country’s students score lower on international math and science exams than those of many countries.”  We’ve all heard and read such statements and as a nation we must respond.

At AVID Center we take seriously our responsibility to provide personal and academic support for students. AVID’s emphasis on literacy, the new Math and Science Bridge programs, and the integrated AVID/AP/Pre-AP College Readiness curricula will surely create new support systems and opportunities for AVID students- and for all students. That is our goal.

So-called STEM jobs are expected to grow more quickly than others in the near future. The U.S. Commerce Department last year projected that STEM jobs will grow by 17 percent from 2010 to 2018, compared with 10 percent for other jobs (Toppo, 2012). Will our students be college ready for majors in these fields? How can the AVID system address the need for STEM-prepared students? 

A recent article in the Peabody Journal of Education cited data from the Longitudinal Study of American Youth that show factors significantly correlating with students entering STEMM (STEM plus medicine) fields in college. The primary factor is active encouragement by parents in math and science interests. Other variables that are strong predictors of students’ decisions to major in STEMM in college are student reading ability in high school, completion of a calculus course in high school, and enjoyment of science as a high school subject (Miller, 2012). Promoting literacy in math and science for students will provide greater career and academic opportunities for them.

AVID’s  Critical Reading, Math I and II, and Science I and II trainings continue to greatly influence the way teachers teach. Participants in these trainings learn effective instructional strategies they can use immediately in their classroom to engage students in the enjoyment and deep learning of rigorous content. The upcoming AVID National Conference will include sessions that focus on STEM Initiatives and issues of equity and access for our students in math and science. Also, AVID’s emphasis on advanced course enrollment (particularly in 8th grade Algebra 1) and the AVID Math and Science Bridge programs work to ensure students are on the correct path for STEMM fields, and that their math and science experiences are rigorous and enjoyable. In addition to these trainings and initiatives, AVID is currently developing College Readiness Institute curricula in which AVID, AP and Pre-AP content and instructional strategies are fully integrated.  These curricula will be piloted through a partnership with Rice University with over 70 AVID sites in the Houston area.

To promote STEM participation, there must also be an increase in parental engagement; influencing parents’ active encouragement of their children to enter math and science fields is a tough goal for AVID staff, teachers, and schools to reach, but we are moving in that direction through the continued refinement of the Certification Self-Study expectations.

The AVID Math and Science Bridge programs are products of a grant project to strengthen AVID’s support for student achievement in math and science.  The objective of developing the Bridge Programs was to accelerate student gains in math and science. Each program is composed of 15 four-hour units and is filled with interactive, collaborative lessons and solid math or science content tied to the Common Core State Standards in math and the Next Generation Standards drafted for science. Enjoyment (or fun!) was built into each program.

The two math programs are designed to provide a means of acceleration to advanced math (i.e., 6th grade on-level math to 7th grade advanced math or 7th grade on-level math to 8th grade Algebra I).  If students aren’t enrolled in and successful in 8th grade Algebra I, they are unlikely to have room in their high school schedules to reach the AP Calculus level or the AP science level, since science courses have a correlation with math courses. Consequently, the advanced math opportunities in middle school can directly affect students’ choice of STEM majors in college.

To evaluate student progress after participation in the math programs, we collect individual data on the students’ performance in math classes and on state exams for the school years prior to and after the bridge programs.  By no means do all students accelerate, nor is that expected. But many students do accelerate and are successful in the advanced math level of the subsequent school year. These are the students that already had potential to be much more successful in math, but had not received direction or encouragement to reach that potential, or been given the opportunity to do so. The Summer Bridge programs can play a role in opening those doors of opportunity.

Math Bridge program data 2009-2012






Total # of districts





Total # of students




2,600 (est)

% of math students accelerating to adv. math




39% (from reported sites)

% of the accelerated students making A’s or Bs




(unavailable until 1st sem. grades)


The two science programs are designed for enrichment rather than acceleration, since the sequence of science courses from middle school to high school varies considerably among districts and states. Hands-on, project-based learning activities are the norm throughout these programs as students participate in an environmental project or perform investigations around the world as they track a scientist who is threatening to release a deadly microorganism.  

The curricula for the College Readiness Institute courses are being developed through a new grant. The four-day institute will vertically align rigorous content in the four major content areas (math, ELA, science, social science) from the AP courses down to the 6th grade level. Each curriculum will extensively integrate AVID instructional strategies with advanced academic content, with the goal of positively impacting teachers’ instructional methods for the ultimate success of students.

AVID is deeply committed to its support-based initiatives that address the need for more STEMM prepared students, and we will continue to support teachers and schools as they work towards preparing all students for college readiness and success.



Kathy Arno is currently a Program Manager for projects with AVID Center. She developed the curricula for the four AVID Math and Science Summer Bridge Programs and now manages the national implementation of the programs. She also manages the College Readiness Initiative, a collaborative effort with Rice University that serves ten Houston-area school districts. Kathy has an M.S. in chemistry and taught AP Chemistry and Pre-AP Chemistry for many years in McKinney, Texas. During this time she was also a College Board® chemistry consultant and exam reader. After moving from the classroom to administrative positions, Kathy was the Advanced Academics Coordinator and AVID District Director for the district. She will present a session at AVID’s National Conference in December titled, "AVID Math and Science Bridge Programs."


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Reader Comments (2)

My daughter is in both STEM and AVID, she is in eighth grade. I have had so many problems with them trying to take her out of AVID because she is in STEM. She is entering high school next year, and we've applied, gotten her letters of reference and never once was notified of at the least an opportunity to have a chance to be in AVID. Apparently, our district is saying if you're in STEM you can't be in AVID, well they're saying it by their actions. I'm so frustrated any suggestions, as to what I can do to help my daughter stay in STEM and AVID and have a successful school year? Thank you for your time.

May 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernadette Rios


Thank you for your response. We will email you directly to check in with you and support if possible.

AVID Center

October 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAVID Center

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