May 6, 2011
Chicago Study Finds Mixed Results for AVID Program
By Sarah D. Sparks
Individual interventions intended to improve academic skills, such as the
popular Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, program, may
not secure a student’s path to graduation and college without a schoolwide
structure to support it, according to a study from the Consortium on Chicago
In a report set for release in the fall and previewed at the American
Educational Research Association convention in New Orleans in April,
researchers analyzed how AVID, a study-skills intervention for middle-
achieving students, played out in 14 Chicago high schools. They found AVID
participants in 9th grade gained little advantage that year over peers not
taking part in the program, and remained off track for graduation and college.
The study highlights a potential pitfall for the dozens of student-based
interventions aiming to scale up nationwide through private support and
programs like the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, program: As
programs move out of the schools for which they were originally
developed, their success becomes increasingly dependent on
individual schools’ context and capacity.
“We’re not really trying to say, does AVID work or doesn’t it, but what has
been its impact in the Chicago context,” said Jenny Nagaoka, the Chicago
Consortium’s associate director and postsecondary-studies manager, and a
study co-author. “It’s not a transformative experience for the AVID student; it’s
not doing enough to change the trajectory of these students for graduation.”
After adjusting for academic and socioeconomic differences between Chicago
students who took part in the AVID program and those who had never had
access to it, researchers found AVID seemed to have little impact on
SOURCE: Consortium on Chicago School Research
Ms. Nagaoka and her CCSR colleagues Melissa R. Roderick, a senior
director, and Melanie LaForce, a research analyst, studied 14,031 students
who attended 9th grade from 2004-05 to 2007-08, including 2,521 AVID
students. The students came from 14 schools with stable 9th grade AVID
programs with student data from both before and after the programs’
Unlike other studies of the program, the CCSR researchers tried to control for
the fact that AVID chooses students who are already highly motivated to
Ms. Nagaoka used a method known as “propensity matching.” She paired
students who attended after AVID was implemented with 7,357 9th graders
who attended the same schools in 2002 and 2003, before AVID, and
compared the performance of students with access to the program with that
of nonparticipating students who had similar academic and socioeconomic
Ms. Nagaoka found that students participating in AVID had average
weighted grade point averages of 2.32 in English and 1.9 in
mathematics on a 4-point scale. Those averages were slightly better
than nonparticipating students’ GPAs of 2.06 in English and 1.75 in
math, but not good enough for the participants to be considered on
track for graduation. No significant effects were seen on students’
gains on state tests in reading, math, or science.
Robert P. Gira, the executive vice president of the San Diego-based AVID,
said the Chicago study was too short-term to be conclusive, because student
academic gains from AVID build over a student’s high school career. “We
expect 9th graders to be making some progress, but the real payoffs start to
happen two to three years later,” Mr. Gira said.
Ms. Nagaoka said the research team is also conducting long-term studies of
AVID in Chicago schools.
Doug Rohrer, a psychology professor at the University of South Florida, in
Tampa, found the CCSR study more rigorous than prior AVID research.
In a September 2010 analysis, the U.S. Department of Education’s What
Works Clearinghouse found only one of 66 AVID studies met its quality
standards. Based on that study, the clearinghouse found AVID had “no
discernible effects on adolescent literacy.”
Mr. Rohrer said school leaders should consider their entire school
improvement approach in selecting an intervention for their own campus.
“The critical question in my mind,” Mr. Rohrer continued, “is whether AVID is
better than requiring students to go to another class, such as an extra dose
of math or writing. Learning how to take notes is a fine strategy, but it
might not help you in Algebra 2 if you haven’t learned Algebra 1.”...