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AVID History

Mary Catherine Swanson 

Mary Catherine Swanson 

Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) was developed by Mary Catherine Swanson at Clairemont High School in 1980 in response to San Diego Unified School District's court-ordered integration of the city’s schools. The program began as an elective class taken during the regular school day. Mary Catherine held her students accountable to the highest standards and provided them with academic and social support. She believed they would rise to the challenge. 

In 1980 The federal courts issued an order to desegregate the city's schools, bringing large numbers of inner city students to suburban schools. While applauding the decision, Swanson wondered how these underserved students would survive at academically acclaimed Clairemont High.
Her answer was AVID, an academic elective. But it's more than a program - it's a philosophy: Hold students accountable to the highest standards, provide academic and social support, and they will rise to the challenge.

Beginning with one high school and 32 students, AVID is growing every year! As of the 2011-2012 school year, AVID is implemented in more than 4,700 sites in over 900 districts. AVID now impacts more than 700,000 students in more than 4,900 schools and 28 postsecondary institutions in 46 states, the District of Columbia and across 16 other countries/territories. The AVID College Readiness System spans elementary through higher education. The AVID College Readiness System spans elementary through postsecondary.  See our Getting Started section for information on AVID Elementary, AVID Secondary (The AVID Elective), and AVID Postsecondary.

Although AVID serves all students, it focuses on the least served students in the academic middle.  The formula is simple - raise expectations of students and, with the AVID support system in place, they will rise to the challenge. What differentiates AVID from other educational reform programs is its astounding success rate. Since 2005, nearly 125,000 AVID students have graduated from high school and planned to attend college. Of the 27,891 AVID graduates in 2011, 91% plan to attend a postsecondary institution; 58% in four-year institutions and 33% in two-year institutions.

Policymakers and school administrators now consider AVID an essential strategy for closing the achievement gap and making the college dream accessible to all students.

Even in the early days of AVID, a "goal of AVID, beyond academic achievement for program students, is to create or enhance a college-going culture at the school that supports high expectations and levels of achievement for all students." The Schoolwide AVID Program Essentials address the need, and requirement, for professional learning and action planning by a school team so that by the end of the third year following implementation, AVID would become institutionalized as a schoolwide program and a core function of the school’s efforts to meet the needs of all students.

The schoolwide initiative is to create college-going campuses where all students graduate college-ready.

AVID is schoolwide when a strong AVID program transforms the leadership, systems, instruction, and culture of a school ensuring college readiness for all students."

Definitions for the AVID Schoolwide Domains:

  • AVID Schoolwide Leadership: sets the vision and the tone that promotes college readiness and high expectations for all students in the school.
  • AVID Schoolwide Systems: when systems are in place that support governance, curriculum & instruction, data collection & analysis, professional learning, and student & parent outreach to ensure college readiness.
  • AVID Schoolwide Instruction: when the entire instructional staff utilizes AVID strategies, other best instructional practices, and 21st Century tools to ensure college readiness for all students.
  • AVID Schoolwide Culture: when the AVID philosophy progressively shifts the system of beliefs and behaviors thus increasing all students meeting college readiness requirements.

AVID is an approved elective course taken during the school day. Students are usually selected to enroll in an AVID class after an application process. For one class period a day, they learn organizational and study skills, work on critical thinking and asking probing questions, get academic help from peers and college tutors, and participate in enrichment and motivational activities that make college seem attainable. Students enrolled in AVID are typically required to enroll in at least one of their school's toughest classes, such as honors or Advanced Placement®, in addition to the AVID elective. As students progress in AVID, their self-images improve, and they become academically successful leaders and role models for other students.

The AVID curriculum, based on rigorous standards, was developed by middle and senior high school teachers in collaboration with college professors. It is driven by the WICOR method, which stands for writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. AVID curriculum is used in AVID elective classes and in content-area classes (English language arts, math, science, and social studies) in AVID schools.