A Claggett Creek Middle School AVID student looks over his notes during class Tuesday, Dec. 1. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

A Claggett Creek Middle School AVID student looks over his notes during class Tuesday, Dec. 1. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

For the past six years, teachers and administrators at Claggett Creek Middle School have put a focus on AVID teaching methods, after Christmas break it will start looking the part as well.

“We’re going to visually reinforce priorities for our students. If a college-going culture is important, we have to reinforce that everywhere students are in the building,” said Rob Schoepper, CCMS principal.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a teaching methodology that emphasizes college- and career-readiness through writing-to-learn strategies that allow students to spend time reflecting on lessons as much as absorbing information itself. AVID students spend more time working in small groups and support each other through the challenges they encounter in school alongside trained tutors on loan from local colleges.

Schoepper and Kelley Greer, CCMS’s AVID coordinator, have been working together the past few weeks on ways to incorporate AVID goals into the atmosphere at the school itself. New looks in the hallways, as well as new names for them, flags representing local and regional colleges and other changes are in the works for unveiling when students return to classes in January.

“Our kids struggle picturing themselves three or eight years from now, this is a way to help them visualize where they’ll be,” Schoepper said.

All graphs by  KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson

KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson

Greer said the ideas were sparked by a visit to Gresham’s Parkrose High School, an AVID demonstration school, earlier this year.

“I was really paying attention to how their building looked and that’s where we got a lot of our ideas. One of the ones I’m most excited about is that we’re going to have signs on the outside of the building with exactly how far (in miles) it is from Claggett to the area colleges,” she said.

The cosmetic changes coincide with a culture shift at the school, a big push to incorporate AVID strategies schoolwide.

Last year, in a comprehensive self-study, the school achieved 2s and 3s in every analysis of AVID adoption. It means that all the AVID efforts have either achieved routine use or are already a sustaining, schoolwide practice.

“It was a big year for us,” said Schoepper. “We also earned the designation of AVID Site of Distinction, which puts us on the path to becoming an AVID demonstration school if we stay on track during the next 18 months.”

Becoming a demonstration school would mean administrators and teachers from throughout the region would be making visits to Claggett to gain a better understanding of how AVID works. CCMS would be only the second school in the state, Parkrose was the first, to achieve that distinction.

In the past six years, AVID at CCMS has grown from one dedicated class to six, and more than 180 students in all.

“That’s a little more than 20 percent of our student body,” Schoepper said. “But it gives us confidence in pushing out the AVID methods to the rest of the school’s students.”

In OAKS testing for the 2013-14 school year, those 180 students outpaced their peers in every category. The average GPA of an average student was 3.26 compared to 2.55 for the whole of the student body. AVID students also fared exponentially better when it came to grades in citizenship and work habits.

AVID programming was originally designed to help student who were landing in the gray areas between academic high-flyers and those at the bottom end of the specturm; those students who would often graduate high school, but had no conceivable plan for what would happen next.

KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson

KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson

However, Claggett’s AVID programs have proven so successful there is now a waiting list to get into the program at every grade level, and any student can apply.

AVID changes have also made the school a desirable place to be for students. At the end of the first semester, CCMS had a 96.1 percent attendance rate, the highest of any middle school in the Salem-Keizer School District.

“When you cut through those numbers, it comes down to strong teacher-student and strong peer relationships where students feel safe,” said Schoepper. “And at the heart of that is our AVID work.”