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College-readiness program expanding in SF schools

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An international college-readiness program offered to students in San Francisco’s public schools for the past two decades will expand at the start of the school year Monday with classes designed specifically for English language learners.

This school year, students designated as English language learners will receive extra language support for the first time at four middle schools as part of an expansion of the San Francisco Unified School District’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) electives, said Mary Finn, program administrator for college and career readiness at SFUSD.

First implemented in the 1993-94 school year at Galileo High School, AVID classes are built into a student’s day at the middle and high school level. SFUSD has since added the elective to new schools each year, with the addition of Hoover Middle School and Mission High School this school year.

Students who join AVID are typically the first in their families to seek higher education and receive extra support in preparing for college in sixth through 12th grades, Finn explained. The classes are taught by full-time teachers as well as local college students who work as tutors in the classrooms twice a week.

“Many of these students, especially at the middle school level, have very high potential but they haven’t shown that potential through their grades,” Finn said. “They haven’t seen themselves as college-going until they are invited into the AVID program.”

The majority of students entering the program have a grade point average equivalent to Bs and Cs, and have demonstrated to the district a desire to attend college, said Finn. Last school year, 98.9 percent of students in the program graduated from high school on time.

AVID students attend English language arts, math, social science, and science courses where teachers are trained to incorporate certain study skills and motivational strategies that promote the college experience.

For the first time, three middle schools that previously offered AVID classes – – James Lick, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Aptos – will also provide Excel classes this school year, which include English language instruction as well as college preparation.

Hoover Middle School, which is adding AVID this year, will also offer Excel classes.

Established more than 30 years ago, AVID today is offered in 16 countries. The program costs just over $1 million for the coming school year, with about a third of funding coming from a Salesforce grant, another third from the SFUSD’s general fund and the remainder from the district’s Public Education Enrichment Fund.

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