When Mary Catherine Swanson began AVID in 1980, she relied on her fourteen years of teaching experience and research to develop each aspect that was incorporated into the program. Through research and collaboration with postsecondary faculty, she found the important skills necessary for a student to be successful at the postsecondary level. The Cornell note-taking technique, the strong emphasis on academic reading and writing skills, and student collaboration all came from the diligent research of Mary Catherine and her team of teachers and professors.

    Mary Catherine Swanson started working as a high school English teacher in 1966, teaching remedial to advanced English classes and began teaching at Clairemont High School in San Diego in 1970. In 1974, she and two fellow English teachers developed an academically rigorous English elective course called “Project English” that included academic rigor and an individualized approach to each student’s unique interests. In 1977 Mary Catherine completed her Master’s thesis in education. In her thesis she identified the key components of a program that could help all students succeed in rigorous English classes. These components form the foundation of AVID, including its philosophy, practices, and curriculum and include:

    1.     A non-traditional classroom setting meeting the academic and emotional needs of individual students
    2.     The teacher as advisor/counselor/student advocate
    3.     An emphasis on objective data
    4.     The student at the center of decision-making regarding educational goals
    5.     A student contract outlining willingness to work and setting learning goals
    6.     Student support from teachers and skilled, trained tutors
    7.     A curriculum emphasizing academic reading and writing
    8.     Reliance on the Socratic process.


    Beginning with one high school and 32 students, AVID now impacts more than 800,000 students in nearly 5,000 schools and 43 postsecondary institutions in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and across 16 other countries/territories. The AVID College Readiness System spans elementary through higher education.

    Although AVID serves all students, the AVID Elective focuses on the least served students in the academic middle. The formula is simple—raise expectations of students and, with the AVID support system in place, they will rise to the challenge. What distinguishes AVID from other educational reform programs is its continuous success rate. Of the 34,229 AVID seniors reporting data in 2013, 91 percent reported plans to attend a postsecondary institution: 60 percent to a four-year college and 30 percent to a two-year institution.  Seventy-seven percent reported taking at least one rigorous course, such as AP®, IB®, or Cambridge®, with 66.7 percent taking the corresponding exam. 

    Policymakers and school administrators now consider AVID an essential strategy for closing the achievement gap and making the college dream accessible to all students.

    For more information please visit www.avid.org


Last Modified on January 28, 2015