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Oxford Schools Approve Contract to Help Close Achievement Gap

Oxford School District to kick off AVID program fall of 2017, in an effort to prepare minority students for college. Photo credit: Alexandria Paton

Let’s call him John. All his high school teachers loved him. He worked hard in all his classes, but there was little help at home and he just didn’t get a good background in any of the core subjects. Now, John’s a college freshman, but he’s not going to make it to his sophomore year. John and students like him are the reason why the Oxford School District is trying to close the achievement gap.
Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) began as a program in 1980 to help children from diverse backgrounds that did not have the proper preparation for college. The program was designed to help students by creating a curriculum based on reading and writing to learn.
Most of the AVID students would be first-generation college students and are also largely minority students.
“They’re OK students,” said Brian Harvey, Oxford School District superintendent. “They’re not ‘A’ students and they’re not the lowest achieving students either. They’re the students that, with a little help, can achieve at a higher level.”
Data gathered by AVID shows that students who are involved in their programs have outpaced non-AVID students by 10-15 percent in college retention rates from the first to the second year.
While the OSD currently has a college entrance rate of 85-90 percent, the college retention rate for the district’s graduates is roughly 70 percent.
“AVID boasts that the year-one to year-two retention rate is approximately 80-85 percent,” Harvey said. “That’s the number that we’re trying to reach. By doing that we close the achievement gap.”
When first considering the AVID program, a group of teachers from the OSD visited multiple events and schools across the nation to find out more about the program and to see if it would be a good fit for the schools within the district.
“The teachers loved it,” said Jeff Clay, assistant superintendent of the OSD. “I was a bit hesitant, but they were very receptive and open to it.”
Clay said that he was most impressed with the children participating in the AVID program and their ease of speaking in front of more than a thousand people at the national conference in Dallas, Texas.
Middle and high school kids in the eighth and ninth grades in Oxford schools will be the first to participate in the program with the 10th and seventh grades scheduled to be added the following year.
Harvey said that they hope to get the program up and running by the fall of 2017.
“AVID is about providing a level of encouragement and support along the way so that [college] is not out of reach for our students,” Harvey said.
Story contributed by Alexandria Paton: ajpaton@go.olemiss.edu.

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