Downtown Dallas swarmed with teachers yesterday as hundreds of educators from across the nation began the June 26-28 AVID training conference, the second Summer Institute in a series of nine. AVID, an acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a program that helps design and organize educational instruction to reinforce the note-taking and study skills needed to prepare students for college readiness. Six large hotels near the Dallas Convention Center were packed with teachers for the three-day Summer Institute and meetings and trainings were occurring at all locations, with bus routes running among the hotels and Convention Center to transport conference-goers.
Educators were broken up by teaching subject or administrative specialty, allowing for teachers to receive specific information about their subject area. Midland, Texas social studies teacher Owen Rust, who is new to the AVID program, described his first day positively: “Our two trainers were friendly and energetic and all the teachers in our secondary social studies strand, which had teachers teaching everything from 6th grade social studies to 12th grade courses like government, economics, and psychology, seemed to be very pleased with the material.” Rust said he had received helpful instructional books and planned to adopt some of the AVID ideas discussed in his “strand,” or meeting of subject-aligned teachers, into next year’s curriculum. Specifically, the idea of Cornell notes, which gave students specific space in which to summarize and ask questions of the material, appealed to Rust, who teaches 12th grade economics.
School districts bringing teachers to the conference included districts as far away as Minnesota and the East Coast, though most seemed to be from Texas and surrounding states. School districts also met individually as “site teams” to discuss implementation of AVID on their own campuses, giving teachers time to plan with their own colleagues. While some districts appeared relatively new to AVID implementation, some districts had clearly grown enamored with the program and all teachers sported AVID-related polo shirts.
Many teachers at the conference are looking forward to any ideas to improve student performance. Widespread complaints regarding student struggles included many issues AVID tries to address: Apathy toward reading and note-taking, student disorganization, weak writing skills. Note-taking and “quickwrite” strategies were especially popular with teachers, some of whom claimed that their students struggled to gain information via textbook reading and that good notes were a necessity as a result.