SUSD Governing Board

AVID program shows initial results among Scottsdale students

Individual determination program set to expand to a third school


Two Scottsdale Unified School District campuses are about to wrap up their first year with the AVID program and educators are sounding positive tunes.

Copper Ridge School, a K-8 school, and the combined Hohokam/Yavapai elementary schools both spent the past year offering the program to its students. The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board heard the update at its May 5 meeting.

AVID, or Advancement via Individual Determination, is a nonprofit organization that helps schools “shift to a more equitable, student-centered approach,” according to the program’s website. The program helps educators better prepare students for college, careers and life.

Initially, Copper Ridge, Hohokam and Yavapai all showed interest, but with Hohokam and Yavapai sharing a campus while Hohokam’s new campus is built, the program was implemented at two campuses. Each school implemented the program campus-wide.

“The primary interest that supported the choice of bringing AVID to all three sites is that we want more students to be prepared with skills and to provide the educational foundation that they need in order to be college and career ready by enhancing their critical thinking skills and organization practices,” Dr. Ibi Haghighat, assistant superintendent of elementary education, said during the meeting.

Efforts over the past year centered on professional development for staff from each school and establishing baseline data for further comparison of the effectiveness of the program. Schools will get feedback from the AVID nonprofit based on one site visit.

At both schools, many staff members attended a variety of trainings such as rigor, focused note-taking, writing and reading. Some teachers saw firsthand how AVID classrooms function while others learned of the latest methodologies.

Students at Copper Ridge and Hohokam/Yavapai centered on focused note taking, teaching students how to set academic goals and adopt organizational skills.

Students in the AVID program generally tested better or close to the same as from the year prior. The district used the third quarter benchmark scores from 2019 and compared them to scores in 2020.

At Copper Ridge, the school’s biggest jumps were from third grade math (49% to 61% testing proficient); second grade math (79% to 90%); seventh grade match (43% to 51%); and second grade English and language arts (67% to 72%). The school did see drops in fifth grade ELA (58% to 55%) and sixth grade math (59% to 48%).

At Hohokam/Yavapai, students tested better or the same across the board. The biggest jumps were third grade math (49% to 66%) and fifth grade ELA (47% to 57%). Hohokam/Yavapai Principal Chuck Rantala said the 2019 scores were an average of Hohokam’s and Yavapai’s scores since the two weren’t together in 2019.

Both Mr. Rantala and Copper Ridge Principal Tim Eyerman showcased various examples of students’ notes and examples of setting goals and monitoring student their progress. Mr. Rantala showcased his students’ binders and other organizational efforts from the past school year.

Schools also focused on establishing a college- and career-going culture on their campuses. This effort included showcasing colleges around the schools through pennants and posters as well as encouraging college research and talk.

Each principal also shared feedback from parents, which showed they liked the focus on college, the increased organization and the efforts with binders. Teachers largely lauded the program with some saying the focused note-taking drove the lessons and others appreciating the added collaboration with colleagues.

Student feedback was also largely positive as many seemed to respond positively to the emphasis on college with Mr. Rantala saying one teacher heard first graders talking about what college they were going to attend. Copper Ridge students responded positively to the note-taking and organization, Mr. Eyerman said.

Future progress lines up Tonalea K-8 School’s sixth-grade team to take AVID training this summer with plans to implement the program next school year. Additional staff will attend training in the summer of 2021.

Mr. Eyerman said he met with the Chaparral High School administration about potentially offering AVID as an elective for incoming students.

“In conclusion, AVID has provided all three of our campuses with infrastructure and accountability,” Mr. Eyerman said.

“It’s allowed for proven achievement, lifelong accountability and college and career sustainability. And, I know I speak for Mr. Rantala and [Tonalea Principal] Dr. [David] Priniski as well, but all students can benefit from AVID.”