Reveles Acosta, Star-Telegram Staff Writer, March 3, 2003
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Four years ago,
Carter-Riverside High School senior Rogelio Morales would have
laughed off his chances of becoming a college-bound student with
a perfect grade-point average.
Morales comes from a working-class family in which neither
parent has a high school diploma. Grades, he said, were neither
celebrated nor castigated.
When he was a freshman, Morales, now 17, learned about a new
program at his school that would take "average" students, teach
them good study habits, place them in high-academic courses and
tutor them throughout the year.
Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, aims to take
underachieving students and make them college material.
"I know that I couldn't have gotten into college without AVID,"
said Morales, who is planning to be a pre-med student at the
University of Texas at Arlington next school year. "Who knows
what I would have done after high school or if I would have even
About 100 students at Carter-Riverside and Polytechnic make up
AVID's first graduating class this year, and officials say that
all of them have college or the military ahead of them.
"We're just teaching them how to play the game of school and
win," said Lee Felts, Carter-Riverside's AVID coordinator.
"These are students that are often ignored because they don't
score high enough to be noticed or low enough to need extra
Teachers and counselors invite students to participate in the
program based on their grades, test scores, background and
ethnicity. Felts said AVID fills honor classes with a lot more
ethnic minority students who will most likely be the first in
their families to attend college.
The criteria to get into AVID are not set in stone.
"You're just going to get a lot of different students. These are
kids who normally wouldn't get this kind of attention in any of
their class," Felts added.
Once invited, the students enroll in a special elective class
where AVID techniques on note taking and study habits are
taught. These techniques include keeping a binder and a calendar
detailing each assignment where help is most needed.
Each AVID school hired several college students to tutor AVID
students at least three times a week.
Freida Lee, the AVID coordinator at Daggett Middle School, has
four tutors helping 100 eighth- and seventh-graders.
"They're a key part of the program because they serve as a
connection for the students," Lee said. "The tutors are college
students themselves, and they serve as a role model to follow
for our students."
Felts says that an even bigger part of a successful AVID program
is the challenge students face by being in honors and advanced
placement classes. Students may start with one or two
high-academic classes during their freshman year, but may
advance to mostly advanced placement or honors courses during
the latter part of school.
The students are often discouraged by the workload in
high-academic courses or intimidated by the material in them,
but Felts said he's yet to see a determined student fail a
"I have homework every night, and I have to work really hard
just to keep up, but school is a lot more fun," said Eddie
Sanders, an eighth-grader at Daggett.
"At first I thought I wasn't going to make it, but knowing how
to take notes makes a difference," Sanders added. "And if I'm
having problems I know I can always ask Ms. Lee or one of the
tutors the next day."
District officials have seen a significant change in students
who attend the 10 schools that serve more than 700 students
In the middle schools, the number of students in eighth-grade
algebra classes has nearly doubled over the previous year. In
high schools, the demand for advanced placement courses has also
doubled in that same period.
Superintendent Thomas Tocco said he has been impressed by the
work done in the 10 sites and is encouraged by the interest that
other schools have shown in the program. But a tight budget
could impede the development of new AVID sites.
Part of the AVID curriculum -- which the district has to
purchase from a California provider -- is federally funded, but
some of the cost is covered by the district. The cost per school
varies, administrators said.
"We're facing tough times, and at least for now, AVID has been
saved," Tocco said. "At this point, we can't talk of expansion
because we have to do with what we have."
Still, national AVID coordinators have been enthusiastic about
the progress made in Fort Worth and have designated two of the
schools -- Carter-Riverside and Polytechnic -- as national
demonstration sites. The two schools are example sites for
educators who want to start similar programs throughout the
"This is more than just an academic program. It's a self-esteem
program and even a dropout prevention program," Lee said. "These
are kids that are going to go through high school and do
something with their lives. I can guarantee it."
AVID - The Advanced Via Individual Determination program, or
AVID, is offered at Carter-Riverside, Polytechnic and O.D. Wyatt
high schools, as well as Riverside, Morningside, Daggett, J.P.
Elder, William James, Dunbar and Forest Oak middle schools.
ONLINE: www.fwisd.org and
Gustavo Reveles Acosta, (817) 390-7420