Program helps Gilbert students aim higher - East Valley Tribune: News

Program helps Gilbert students aim higher

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Posted: Monday, November 5, 2007 12:22 am | Updated: 7:51 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Students in Gilbert who may not have otherwise considered taking honors classes are now excelling in them thanks to a program called AVID.

Piloted last year at Highland High School, Advancement Via Individual Determination is designed to get more students involved in a rigorous curriculum, said Ken James, executive director of educational services for the Gilbert Unified School District.

James said the program has expanded this year to Desert Ridge and Gilbert high schools and Desert Ridge, Highland and Greenfield junior high schools. Next year, Gilbert Junior High will also have AVID.

The program is an elective class that students take to support them in their honors classes. They receive tutoring and learn study skills, research skills, organization, test-taking skills and time management.

“The primary goal of it is to take students who haven’t been in honors and AP (Advanced Placement) classes and provide them with support,” said Peter Gesler, the AVID coordinator at Highland High.

Keaton Savage, a 15-year-old sophomore at Highland, said that before AVID he wasn’t interested in taking honors classes.

“I figured A’s in other classes were good enough,” he said. “With an honors ‘B’ you get the same GPA, but it’s hard work. If I wasn’t in (AVID), I’d probably just be flying through high school.”

Last year, he took honors math, honors lab biology and honors English, and this year he’s enrolled in honors math, honors chemistry, and honors English 2.

Gesler said the AVID class meets five days a week, and two days are spent on tutorials, where tutors use the Socratic method of directing students to find answers rather than offering the answers.

“The goal is to teach them how to be independent learners,” he said.

When the program was piloted, educators went to the junior high schools to find students who met the profile so they could begin the four-year program their freshman year, Gesler said.

The profile includes students who didn’t take honors in junior high, the first in their family to be college-bound, those who are hard workers and have individual determination, he said. Their classes, attendance and discipline records were also considered.

Gesler started with freshmen last year and moved up with them as sophomores this year. He will stay with them until they graduate.

When the students first came to high school, many did not believe they were honors students.

“Now they feel they are legitimately honors students,” Gesler said. “Their confidence has grown tremendously.”

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