November 18, 2014
Seven years ago, Red Bank Regional (RBR) implemented a nationally- renown college-preparatory program called AVID (Advancement through Individual Determination) to help students challenge themselves to perform their best academically. All this preparation has paid off since all AVID students have taken at least one AP or IB course, the most challenging classes offered at RBR. This year, a new phase was implemented to this very successful program where seniors, who are in the fourth year of the program, lead the important “tutorology” segment aiding the lower classmen.
The program is different than tutoring in the traditional sense; RBR senior and AVID student, Khalia Smith explains, “When the students have a question, the tutor does not answer it, but asks them questions using their own notes, homework or textbooks. This way we guide them so they can use these methods to find the answers themselves.”
Sophomore Nydasia Birch is enrolled in her fourth year of the AVID program, having taken it as an elective in her middle school.
She comments on the program and her upper classmen tutors, “AVID is great since it gives me time and space to follow-up on what I had in class. It is great to have the seniors come to class as we connect with them. They are not just giving me the answer. They have me get out my notes and gain the experience (for myself.) rather than just going to a test with the answer and not understanding (the material.)”
The AVID classroom is a full-year elective that meets every other day for 84 minutes. During that time, students practice study skills using a successful study tool called Cornell Notes and critical thinking is enhanced through a program called the Socratic Seminar which stresses active listening and discussion. For thirty minutes of that timeframe, the students engage in tutorology where they have the opportunity to review lessons they may have not understood in their classes or seek help to complete homework assignments.
RBR Social Studies Teacher Kyle Waltz, who teaches the AVID sophomore class comments, “Tutorology is a key component of the AVID program. The older kids help the younger students by leading them to an answer using critical thinking skills.”
In the past six years, this function was filled by volunteer graduate students from Monmouth University. Due to the college’s scheduling this semester, the graduate students could not participate in the RBR program. As commitment to community service is a key component of AVID, the decision was made to utilize the senior AVID students for this function this year.
According to Kyle Waltz, the experiment has gone very well. He reports, “While the college students were great to work with, they haven’t seen some of this work in six years where are kids just had the same courses, know the material and know what the teachers are looking for.”
Senior Jess Scotti, is in her fourth year in AVID and spends a portion of her classroom time with Mr. Waltz’s sophomore class.
She comments on her participation in the program stating, “As a tutor, I see their (underclassmen’s) perspective. As I hadn’t learned the material in a while, it was hard at first, but when I started working with them, it all came back to me and I was able to help them.” She adds, “And I feel it is giving something back, as AVID has helped me so much, particularly with organizational skills and in staying focused.”
Jess is one of 10 students that continued with AVID through four years of high school. While her past three years have concentrated on working toward strong organizational and critical thinking skills, this year, guided by her AVID teacher, RBR business teacher James Young, she has already completed all her college applications and secured the important teacher recommendations for college.
The remainder of the senior-year AVID activities will focus on preparing the seniors for their college days including filling out the complicated government FASFA forms and seeking scholarship opportunities to afford the colleges they will attend. The students may even be able to explore and choose the courses they will take in their freshman year of college. It is anticipated that every AVID student will attend college, with most aiming to attend four-year colleges.
James Young comments, “While as teachers we helped give them the skills they needed to get into college, now my job is to help them be successful once they get there.”
RBR AVID Supervisor and Assistant Principal Rob Donohoe comments on the change to the AVID program, “As in all things you need to be flexible, but the silver lining was seeing how well the kids have interacted together. They also believe in this program as it has really helped them with their own college preparation. AVID has also been a real boon to our school in general, since in the years we have offered the program, failure rates have decreased, more of our students have gotten into college (including four year colleges) while many more students have taken higher level courses.”