Advancement Via Individual Determination & First Year College Success

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Advancement Via Individual Determination & First Year College Success

Abstract

The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program has been around for over three decades and much research has been done on the effectiveness of the AVID program and the impact it has on the lives of the students who have been a part of AVID while in elementary, middle, and high school. Yet there is very little research on what happens to AVID students once they graduate from high school and enter the world of college. The purpose of this mixed-methods research study is to investigate what happens to high school AVID students once they graduate and enter college in order to determine what impact if any the AVID program has on students’ first year academic success.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. FOUNDATIONS

INRODUCTION

The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program began in one Clairemont High School classroom 32 years ago and has grown to serve over 425,000 elementary, middle, and high school students in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and 16 countries/territories (AVID Center, 2012). Much research has been done on the effectiveness of the AVID program and the impact it has on the lives of the students who have been a part of AVID while in elementary, middle, and high school; however there is very little research on what happens to AVID students once they graduate from high school and enter the world of college.

The brainchild of Mary Catherine Swanson, former Clairemont High School English Department Chair and AP teacher, AVID was created in 1980 as a response to a federal court order to desegregate San Diego City Schools. Before this time, more than 80% of Clairemont students went on to college after graduating; however with those affluent students moving to another school, only to be replaced by 500 low-income, ethnically diverse students most of whom had been in remedial courses and had parents with no college experience, much of the school’s faculty fled (Shaughnessy, 2005). Mary Catherine Swanson stayed, believing that the new students were just as intelligent as their more affluent peers they just hadn’t experienced or had access to the same educational and cultural advantages (Shaughnessy, 2005). With this mindset, Advancement Via Individual Determination was born. Swanson started with 30 students, enrolled them in rigorous college preparatory courses and provided them with academic support via the AVID elective class (Shaughnessy, 2005). With the support of the newly created AVID program, 28 of the original 30 AVID students enrolled in four-year colleges and 2 enrolled in community college; and all of them have since graduated from a four-year institution (Shaughnessy, 2005).

The secrets to the success of the AVID program are the teacher of the AVID elective class who serves as mentor, coach and advocate; the academically average, first-generation, low-income, minority students who have the capacity and deep desire to excel; and the AVID elective curriculum that focuses on time-management, organization, and note-taking skills combined with tutorial sessions and an intensive writing to learn, inquiry based critical questioning, collaboration, and critical reading curriculum (WICR). When AVID students are placed in rigorous courses that include advanced, honors, AP/IB, and dual-enrollment courses, they have the tools and support they need to be academically successful, thus meeting four-year college entrance requirements.

Additionally, according to a 2001 research study by Horn & Kojaku that took a closer look at the relationship between high school academic curricula and students’ persistence path through college, it stands to reason that AVID students are also provided with the skills and rigorous course experience they need to be successful once entering college as well. Horn & Kojaku (2001) concluded that even though students from low-income families whose parents did not obtain an education higher than high school, and students who attended a high school where a significant proportion of the students receive free/reduced lunch were all less likely to have completed a rigorous academic high school curriculum in comparison to their more advantaged peers; however socio-economically disadvantaged (low-income/first-generation) students can overcome such disadvantages by completing a rigorous high school academic curriculum.

AVID as it is today, has moved beyond the AVID elective classroom and has transformed into a college readiness system designed to increase school-wide learning and performance for all students, not just students enrolled in the AVID elective course (avidonline.org, 2012). In addition, AVID has three decades worth of data driven evidence proving it is an amazingly effective college preparatory program. One of the most impressive statistics is the percentage of AVID students who apply and are accepted to four-year institutions. From the 2010-11 graduating class, 89% of AVID seniors applied and 74% were accepted to four-year colleges; those students who met four-year college entrance requirements raged from a low of 85% of AVID seniors in Washington to a high of 95% of AVID seniors in Maryland compared to the National average of only 36% (AVID Center, 2012). There is no doubt that AVID is something special; yet the question as to what happens to those graduating AVID seniors once they attend college still lingers unanswered.

Of the first six AVID classes of students taught by Mary Catherine Swanson in the 1980s, 178 of 181 enrolled in college; 89% went on to four-year institutions, and 11% went to community college; and they graduated with a cumulative grade point average of 2.46-2.47 (Swanson, 1989). As freshmen in college, those students maintained an average grade point average of 1.9 at San Diego State University to 2.83 at the University of California San Diego (Swanson, 1989). Yet after this group of students, no formal data tracking system exists once AVID students leave high school, and there is no data on whether all of the 178 AVID students who enrolled in college persisted and obtained a bachelor’s degree.

In addition, there is compelling research data regarding first-generation college students who are traditionally at a significant disadvantage in gaining access to higher education that shows that first-generation students did not perform as well as their peers during not only the first year of college, but throughout their entire undergraduate enrollment (Chen 2005). Furthermore, Chen (2005) found that first-generation status was negatively associated with lower bachelor’s degree completion rates; however students who earned higher grades and more credits during their first year of college and repeated and withdrew from fewer classes, including first-generation students,  had a better chance of “persisting” and attaining a bachelor’s degree.

Additional research by Warburton, Bugarin & Nunez (2001), intended to build on earlier research in an effort to glean a better understanding regarding the true extent to which first-generation students’ academic preparation in high school affects their persistence in college and attainment of a postsecondary degree, examined the relationship between first-generation students’ secondary preparation and postsecondary persistence when compared to students whose parents attended college. As a result of the study, Warburton, Bugarin & Nunez (2001) found that overall, students who took a rigorous high school course load were very likely to persist in a four-year postsecondary institution; however a parent’s level of education was associated with a student’s postsecondary retention and persistence, and first-generation students were less likely than their peers whose parents attended college to stay on a persistence path toward attainment of a bachelor’s degree. Thus, even though the playing field was not completely leveled by the rigor of secondary coursework, the researchers nevertheless concluded that regardless of parents’ education a student’s level of secondary academic preparation remains an important predictor of retention and persistence in college and that providing first-generation college students with the opportunity to take rigorous courses in high school will increase their chances of persisting and obtaining a four-year degree (Warburton, Bugarin & Nunez, 2001).

However, as a result of a gap in research on the postsecondary impact of pre-college preparation programs, such as AVID, on low-income, minority, and first-generation students Mediola, Watt & Huerta (2010) found that the outcome of their 2010 qualitative research study supports how postsecondary programs such as AVID help prepare students for the rigors of college. Such research paved the way for future studies on the impact of AVID students’ college-going rates. For example, Watt, Huerta & Alkan (2011) whose research indicates that AVID students showed a greater college retention rate than their non-AVID peers; students who take advantage and participate in college-preparation activities in high school such as AVID and dual-enrollment are predictors of college success; and certain components of the AVID program such as Cornell-notes and AVID’s family-like support system provide the tools and motivation students need in order to achieve their academic goals.

Yet despite all the research supporting the idea that AVID students should theoretically stay on track and persist on a college path that leads to a bachelor’s degree, the question still remains, what really happens to AVID students once they graduate from high school and enter the world of college?

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

How does participation in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program impact the academic success of first year college students?

  1. a) Are those students on track to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in five years or less?
  2. b) What components of the AVID program do students report as contributors to their first year college success?

III.       METHODS

PURPOSE

The purpose of this section is to describe the action research design and procedure that will be used to answer the research questions: How does participation in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program impact the academic success of first year college students?

  1. a) Are those students on track to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in five years or less?
  2. b) What components of the AVID program do students report as contributing to their first year college success?

ACTION RESEARCH PLAN

The Advancement Via Individual Determination program has been around for over three decades and much research has been done on the effectiveness of the AVID program and the impact it has on the lives of the students who have been a part of AVID while in elementary, middle, and high school. Yet there is very little research on what happens to AVID students once they graduate from high school and enter the world of college.

The purpose of this mixed-methods research study is to investigate what happens to high school AVID students once they graduate and enter college in order to determine what impact if any the AVID program has on students’ first year academic success. The research study will take place over the course of a five week period, beginning June 25, 2012, whereby students from the Point Loma High School graduating AVID class of 2011 will be contacted for voluntary participation. Once students have responded that they would like to participate, a consent form added to an AVID student survey (created using survey monkey) will be emailed and posted on Facebook. The survey will be sent out on a Wednesday and all should be collected by the following Wednesday.  Upon receipt of the consent form and completed surveys, data analysis should begin the following week. Overall, the entire research study from consent to data analysis should take no longer than four weeks.

SETTING

The research study will take place using data collected from the Point Loma High School AVID class of 2011. Point Loma High School (PLHS) is located in a suburban beach community in San Diego, California. With approximately 2000 ethnically and socio-economically diverse students in grades 9-12, Point Loma High School is the third largest high school in the San Diego Unified School District. The AVID program at PLHS has been in place for close to three decades. The PLHS AVID program serves roughly 80 (varies from year to year) low-income, first-generation, and/or traditionally under-represented students in four-year colleges/universities through a four-year college preparatory elective course scheduled within the school day. The mission of the AVID program itself however goes beyond the confines of the elective class. According to the AVID Center (2012) website, the mission of AVID “is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.”

PLHS AVID students must voluntarily apply to be part of the four-year program. All applications are reviewed and then consequently approved by the AVID Coordinator, AVID Elective Teacher(s), and the AVID Site Team; any student may apply, however not all students are accepted.  Students are strongly encouraged to remain in AVID all four years; however some students opt to not continue for various reasons including transfer of schools, scheduling conflicts, and program rigor.

PARTICIPANTS

Participants for this research study will be chosen through non-probability convenience sampling. The participants will consist of voluntary and informed first year college students from the PLHS AVID graduating class of 2011; sixteen (eleven female, five male) AVID students have been identified as meeting this criteria, however, it is unknown at this time how many will volunteer to participate. Therefore, specific demographic data will be presented after the research study has been conducted. At the time of the present research study, all potential participants are over the age of 18.

INSTRUMENTATION

The instrumentation used in this research study, AVID Student Survey, was developed by the researcher using surveymonkey.com. The survey consists of three pages: Consent Form; Student Information; and AVID Information. The Student Information page asks students for basic information about themselves such as, their name, what college they attend, what their GPA is, and how many college credit they have earned. The AVID Information page is designed with open-ended questions such as, “Were any of the skills you learned in AVID helpful during your first year of college?”; “How do you think AVID contributed to your academic performance during your first year of college?”; “How do you think AVID could have better prepared you for your first year of college?” Responses to such questions will enable the researcher to better understand from an AVID student’s perspective what he/she believes contributed to his/her academic success during the first year of college.

PROCEDURES

Once initial contact has been made with all sixteen students via a previously created “private” page, PLHS AVID, and “closed group”, 2011 AVID Grads, on Facebook (emails will be sent to the three students without Facebook), the next goal will be to find willing participants; a minimum of five students will be needed to continue the research study. Once students have agreed to volunteer, the researcher will email students a survey link that contains a consent form and survey. Students will have one week to complete the online survey; the survey link will also be posted on Facebook on the “private” PLHS AVID page, in the “closed group”, 2011 AVID Grads. Only those students who complete the online survey containing the consent form will be able to participate in the research study. The researcher will utilize previously collected high school transcripts in order to build an academic foundation for the students participating in the research study. After the survey has been submitted by the participants, the researcher will begin analyzing the data.

ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS

When conducting any type of research, the researcher must take into consideration the ethical concerns regarding the study’s participants. For this research study, the researcher must take the necessary precautions to ensure participants’ rights are respected.       As previously mentioned in the Procedures section of this paper, the researcher must obtain informed consent from all participants. A consent form will be included in the online student survey; student participants must volunteer to participate in order to complete the survey; parental consent is not applicable because all participants are over the age of 18. The purpose of the consent form is to clearly describe the purpose and benefits of the research being done. The form will explain that by giving consent, participants are volunteering to be part of the research study, but may terminate their participation at any time for any reason without consequence. In addition, the consent forms will inform the participants regarding their confidentiality and privacy, risks and benefits of the research study, and whom to contact for answers to questions regarding the research study and participants’ rights.

DATA ANALYSIS PLAN

Data analysis will be conducted by analyzing transcript data along with students’ survey responses. High school transcript data will be used for academic foundational and demographic purposes. The transcripts will allow the researcher to share students’ academic backgrounds including participation in dual-enrollment and AP courses prior to graduating high school. The researcher will also utilize students’ overall academic GPAs at the time of high school graduation. The student survey will provide demographic and background data as well as current college GPAs and the number of credit hours completed; this information will allow the researcher to determine whether each participating AVID student is on track to graduate (meeting minimum GPA and credit accumulation required to graduate in four to five years). Student responses to open-ended survey questions will allow the researcher to note common themes amongst the group of surveyed students. In addition, the open-ended question responses will help the researcher improve AVID instruction and guidance as well as offer advice for current and future AVID students in order to better prepare themselves for first year college success. Furthermore, the researcher plans to share this information with the PLHS AVID Site Team in an effort to improve the school’s AVID program.

  1. DATA ANALYSIS

PURPOSE

The purpose of this section is to describe and analyze the transcript and survey data collected during this research study in an effort to answer the research questions: How does participation in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program impact the academic success of first year college students?

  1. c) Are those students on track to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in five years or less?
  2. d) What components of the AVID program do students report as contributing to their first year college success?

DATA COLLECTION

Data was collected between June and July 2012. Sixteen Point Loma High School AVID students graduated in 2011. The researcher was only able to get in touch via email, Facebook, and word of mouth with fourteen students. All fourteen AVID students initially agreed to participate in the research study. Each of the fourteen students received an emailed copy of the survey in pdf form prior to the survey being disseminated through Survey Monkey. Surveys were sent later that day via email/Survey Monkey; a link to the student survey was also posted on the 2011 AVID Grads closed and private Facebook page. The students were given one week to complete the survey. Eleven of the fourteen completed the Informed Consent page of the survey in addition to the first half of the survey; eight students completed the entire survey and were thus included in the analysis of the data.

DEMOGRAPHICS

The participants in this mixed methods research study consisted of voluntary and informed first year college students from the Point Loma High School AVID graduating class of 2011; sixteen (eleven female, five male) AVID students were identified as meeting this criteria, however, the researcher was only able to make initial contact with fourteen students. Of the fourteen initial volunteers, eleven completed all or part of the student survey; because three of the eleven students did not complete the entire survey, they will be excluded from the study.

The final eight student participants (six female, two male) completed their first year of college during the 2011-12 school year. According to the completed surveys, all of the participants are 18-19 years of age; six identify their ethnicity as “Hispanic” or “Mexican”; one as “White/Hispanic”; and one as “Asian”. Four participants stated that the highest level of school completed by their mother was a high school degree or equivalent; three reported their mother as completing less than a high school degree; and one reported her mother received an Associate degree. Five participants stated that the highest level of school completed by their father was a high school degree or equivalent; and three reported their father as completing less than a high school degree. Seven of the eight students receive the Federal Pell Grant, which for the purpose of this research study qualifies them as “low-income”. Six of the students currently attend a four-year college/university and two attend community college; of those six attending a four-year institution, five attend four-year public schools in California and one attends a private school out of state. All eight students were enrolled in the PLHS AVID program for at least three years; seven of those students were in the program all four years of high school and four students participated in AVID five or more years and all eight participated in AVID for at least four years including middle and high school.

FINDINGS

QUANTITATIVE TRANSCRIPT DATA

High school transcript data was used to determine a baseline for students’ academic performance throughout high school. An overall “academic” GPA was calculated for each of the eight participants from grades nine-twelve; and the number of honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses was tabulated for each student. “Academic” GPA consists of courses taken in English, mathematics, history, foreign language, visual and performing arts, and AVID; weighted credit was applied to any honors and AP courses taken. It is important to note that dual-enrollment course grades are not reported on students’ high school transcripts and thus are not included in the students’ “academic” GPA; however all eight students participated in at least one dual-enrollment program while in high school and seven of the eight participated in two dual-enrollment programs.

From the transcript data, academic GPAs ranged from a low of 2.6 to a high of 4.0, and an average of 3.57. All eight students took five or more AP courses (three of the eight took 6); five students completed two honors courses, two completed one, and one student did not complete any honors courses. In addition, all eight students completed a math course beyond Intermediate Algebra, and six of the eight students completed a math course beyond Pre-calculus.

QUANTITATIVE SURVEY DATA

According to the survey data, seven of the eight students reported their current university status as that of a sophomore and one .............


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