Highland Middle School

Building confidence. Being successful in class. Leadership. Organization.

These things are just some of what AVID has meant to Highland eighth grader Hector Montalvan Navarro, a second year AVID student.

“AVID helps me to know what is important to take notes on, what’s not, and what questions I should ask,” he said.

Before AVID, Montalvan Navarro said, he felt shy in class. He energetically re-enacted how papers used to come spilling out of his backpack in disarray. But, no longer. Montalvan Navarro said he feels confident in class now and enjoys being a leader. He checked his backpack with a silly grin and confirmed: there’s only one loose leaf today.

At Highland Middle School the culture of AVID runs deep and the hard work of students and staff is getting noticed. This year the school earned the title of being a “Schoolwide Site of Distinction” for the second year in a row – a recognition given to less than 10 percent of AVID programs.

The academic elective was first offered at Highland in the early 2000s, and through the past decade has grown from one initial class offering to four, plus a pre AVID class. Amber Snapke, the school’s Site Coordinator and Instructional Coach, said that presently some 20 percent of the student body at Highland is in one of the associated classes.

“At Highland AVID is always part of the conversation,” she said. “It’s infused in what we do, in our culture, and our community.”

The classes focus on the five pillars of AVID: writing, reading, inquiry, organization, and collaboration. AVID students also participate in peer study groups, advanced AVID students are reading buddies with local preschoolers, and the site team encourages students to participate in student leadership.

The staff at Highland works to integrate the pillars and associated strategies into classes across the broader curriculum, taking them schoolwide to the benefit of all students.

“AVID is just flat out good teaching,” Highland science teacher Jane Van Ryn said. “It gives kids responsibility for their own learning. It doesn’t just teach them content, but teaches them how to learn. That makes them a lifelong learner. Whether or not they pick up all the important pieces of a science class’ content, if they know how to learn it’s still available to them.”

As part of the schoolwide focus on AVID, about 80 percent of teachers at Highland have attended a formal AVID training, Snapke said. “Through those trainings they’ve learned different strategies to use in their classrooms – whether it’s critical reading or Cornell note taking or doing things like Socratic seminars. How engaged students are and how much they get out of a lesson definitely increases when teachers are using AVID strategies.”

To be named a site of distinction the site team has to complete an assessment every year and provide evidence of the implementation of AVID and outcomes. That information is reviewed by AVID and the school is assigned a level of certification.

The vision for the future of AVID at Highland includes continuing to reach more students and becoming a demonstration school, Snapke and the district’s AVID Curriculum Developer Monica Davies said.

“To be a demo site is not only that you have the AVID elective classes but that you are using AVID strategies in all classes,” Snapke explained. “The students play a huge role in being a demonstration school because they are the ambassadors to AVID. The benefit for them – the sense of pride and all the kids in the school getting the benefits of AVID strategies – is what I see as the biggest draw to going demo.”

AVID in the Bellevue School District is made possible in part by the Bellevue Schools Foundation.