Since starting the AVID program formally at the Alternative Education Center, Principal Charles Quintela said it has blended in seamlessly with the curriculum, which already included elements of the college preparation program.
AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. Alex Ramirez, AVID coordinator at the Alternative Education Center, said there are eight to 10 students in the program currently. For prospective students, Ramirez said the student and parents are interviewed to see how much support there is from the parent.
If things go well, the Alternative Education Center will contact the AVID coordinator on the student’s home campus and obtain a recommendation. Ramirez said the student doesn’t necessarily have to be in AVID on their home campus to be included at the AEC.
Just before students took off for Christmas break, there were 125 students at the center. Quintela said youngsters range in age from 12 to 18. About 70 percent will be there for 20 days, 20 percent for 40 days and five percent for a semester to a school year.
Students can be sent to the Alternative Education Center after committing a felony, being expelled from school, a third drug-related offenses and assaults, among other things. Quintela said some students make the transition from jail to the Alternative Education Center.
Quintela said the entire Alternative Education Center is infused with the AVID culture. It teaches students how to take notes, how to stay organized, time management and incorporating college and career readiness, which he said are important skills for students to have when they return to their home campuses.
The campus was already employing AVID strategies, among other programs and practices, before it officially started the program in fall 2017. The campus may be the first alternative education school in the country using AVID, Quintela said.
“Without a doubt I think it’s enhanced the culture of our school within the instructional realm because we’re supporting our AVID strategies,” Quintela said.
He added that teachers observe their peers in the classroom and talk about what needs to be tweaked, refined or reinforced. Quintela said all 27 teachers at the Alternative Center are using AVID.
Quintela said you can see the difference in the students since AVID has started as far as confidence, the organizational skills and the data. He added that students at the center are traditionally below the mark academically, but AVID is helping with test scores and confidence.
“We’re not only trying to build confidence, but competence. We have to figure out why they can’t function at the regular schools. If they can do it here, they can do it anywhere,” he added.
Once some students attend AEC, they want to stay because of its small class sizes, structure and few distractions, Ramirez and Quintela acknowledge.
Quintela said the skills students learn with AVID, especially the note taking, organization and knowing what they’re learning through their planners are the three biggest elements that will help students become successful because it’s showing in the campus data now.
Quintela said a lot of students attending the AEC have experienced trauma, have drug issues and try to self-medicate because of their trauma. Chess is used to help counteract this.
“It’s almost like therapy. It is therapy,” Quintela said.
AEC helps transition students back to their home campus for three weeks.
“They check on grades, attendance and discipline and make sure they’re following the rules. The lead teacher advocates for the student. They’re not paid for that,” Quintela said.
Ramirez noted that teachers at AEC are required to contact at least five parents per week.
“We’re kind of leaning toward a positive conversation. It’s not always the case, but for the most part it is so they understand and have some ownership over their kids’ education. When we do have a bad situation, we have that communication already it doesn’t get any worse. Parents understand where we’re at, so when it’s time to fix the problem it’s not very difficult for us to do,” Ramirez said.