Madison East High School has been designated as a national demonstration site for AVID/TOPS, a college preparatory program that has shown success raising achievement for low-income and minority students.
“Our school has been recognized for really implementing to full fidelity the best practices for AVID and that they have been working for our students in our outcomes and in the grades for the coursework they are taking and in their college and career plans after high school,” says Langston Evans, Madison East TOPS Student Coordinator. “It also recognizes that all of our staff has bought into school reform as a systemic approach to changing the culture of our school throughout the building.”
The AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program is used by 4,000 schools in 15 countries, but only the top 2 percent are designated as demonstration sites. The announcement that Madison East was selected came late last week.
“It was overwhelming joy when we heard the news,” Evans recalls. “I know how much our school has changed and to be recognized by people from the outside on what a special place East is … that was an overwhelmingly happy feeling.”
AVID began at Madison East in 2007 as a pilot program and has since been implemented throughout the district. The program provides study skills and accelerated courses to students in the academic middle with college aspirations and it includes a unique partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County TOPS (Teens of Promise) tutoring and mentor program. AVID includes an elective course focused on organizational strategies, study skills, critical thinking, tutorial support, and career and college awareness. It assists students with tackling challenging course work and developing skills necessary for college and life success.
East has been recognized by the National AVID Center after it was evaluated by the regional director. “They looked at our data over an 18-month cycle and did a couple of coaching visits and site visits where they actually could see what’s going on in the building,” Evans says. “In order to be considered, we had to be more than just a school that had AVID as a class, we had to be a school that a school-wide systemic plan for reform in erasing the achievement gap.”
While AVID began with just 28 students back in 2007, there are currently 185 students in AVID/TOPS at East. It’s Evans’ hope that this number increases even more in the coming years.
“Right now, we have about 12 percent of our student body in the class. We want to bring that up to about 15 percent,” Evans says. “We want to raise the performance for African American males in the program and really improve the African American and Latino males throughout our building through using some of the AVID strategies.”
To ensure they have the tools they need, AVID students are enriched by many guest speakers, tutoring opportunities, and college campus visits. Students are empowered to take control of their education with placement in summer internships in various career paths. AVID students also attend college and career seminars, and learn good study skills, critical thinking, and ACT/SAT test preparation. AVID graduates successfully transition to college and have the continued support they need to be successful throughout their college careers.
According to the Wisconsin Center for Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) data that compares Madison East AVID seniors to a comparison group in a cross-sectional analysis, the AVID/TOPS students show higher credit attainment at every level freshman through junior year, a higher increase in grade-point average (GPA), much higher enrollment in honors and advanced placement (AP) classes, a better attendance, and a decrease in behavioral referrals.
“Specifically, the groups that showed the most difference when you disaggregate the data are low-income AVID/TOPS students and our African American AVID/TOPS students — [there are] really, really outstanding differences,” Evans says. “For example, the average GPA for African American AVID students is a half a grade higher than it is for African American students in the comparison group.”
Madison East’s AVID/TOPS program hopes to continue to build upon the honor of being a national demonstration site and the successes it has shown improving the outcomes of its students. Evans says that they will have the honor of being a national demonstration site for a few years before they will be re-evaluated.
“The demonstration recognition allows us to be recognized as a model for best practices and a center for teaching and learning,” Evans says. “So, the next step is really having other school districts and schools come and visit us and for us to share our story with them and give feedback on what is working and what is not. This allows us to continually share the new and innovative ideas that are going on here.”
In a city struggling with issues related to the minority achievement gap, AVID/TOPS has been an encouraging success. “This is something that we can do to help with the achievement gap and it’s something that we know that we do well,” Evans says. “We are excited about where we are headed.”
For more information about AVID/TOPS, visit www.avidtops.org