By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Principal Erik Jespersen wants McNary High School to be a giant laboratory where people come from all over the country to see what his teachers and students are doing.
On Tuesday, Jan. 10, Jespersen got his wish as 50 Oregon educators attended an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) open house at the school.
The open house was another step in McNary becoming the first AVID Demonstration high school in the state, a goal Jespersen and his staff set in 2015 while at NIKE headquarters in Beaverton.
“It’s one thing to say you want to be world class,” Jespersen said. “The natural next question is what does that look like? Part of what that looks like is being a National Demonstration School because to be a National Demonstration School you have to be really good at a lot of things. This is just providing a concrete road map for us to be the best.”
MHS had a site visit in December, where AVID personnel came to tour the school and sit in on AVID classes. McNary has 200 students in eight AVID electives—three for freshmen, two for sophomores and juniors, and one section for seniors.
“They do things that kids wouldn’t think to do and parents wouldn’t think to do, like review a kids transcript and then really work on choosing their classes based on strengths and weaknesses,” Assistant Principal Rhonda Rhodes said.
AVID students are also taught how to take notes and be organized, encouraged to try AP (Advanced Placement), honors and dual-credit classes, and get help with filling out college applications and finding scholarships.
Last year’s AVID seniors were awarded a total of $708,413 in grant and scholarship money for college.
During the open house, McNary freshmen AVID students showed visitors how they organize their binders. Sophomore and juniors gave tours and then seniors were on a student panel, where they answered questions and described how AVID had impacted them.
Visitors also witnessed AVID tutorials, where students worked at solving problems in groups.
“One thing that I think is really neat about it is when you have orchestra kids, they practice harder because they have a performance on this day so they can preform well and students will do that too,” Rhodes said. “Being a National Demo School, the school’s we’ve been to, our own feeder school here at Claggett, the kids performed well when we were there. They were proud of themselves and we could tell that they had worked hard academically so that they could. So we feel like our kids will get a lot of benefits from us being an AVID demo school.”
The open house was just one of many steps McNary must take to become a demonstration school, which it hopes to do by 2020.
“You have to show a certain area and proficiency and progress to even have the right to have the open house,” Jespersen said.
MHS had to submit metrics to document school-wide growth and performance in order to become an AVID National Site of Distinction, which is a step before becoming a demonstration school and would take McNary to a whole new level.
“It’s the first real designation that puts us above everyone else,” Jespersen said.
The metrics haven’t been a hold up for McNary.
For example, AVID has a benchmark that a minimum of 60 percent of 11th and 12th graders must be enrolled in an AP or dual enrollment class. At McNary, that number is 82 percent. Eighty percent of seniors must complete the state’s college entrance requirement. McNary has 90 percent. Seventy-six percent of McNary seniors were accepted to college, over the AVID benchmark of 70.
And 60 percent of teachers on campus must be AVID-trained. At McNary, 66 percent have received AVID training, which Jespersen plans to grow to 100 percent in the next three years.
“We want our staff to feel like they’re part of this journey,” he said.
McNary can apply to start an 18-month coaching cycle next fall.
“It’s like getting your PHD, Rhodes said. “It’s a long path.”
McNary isn’t the only school in Keizer on its way to becoming an AVID Demonstration School. Claggett Creek Middle is already in its coaching cycle, hosted around 100 educators from across the state in December and has a validation visit scheduled for March 15, where Claggett will find out if it has become just the second demonstration middle school in Oregon.
“We’ve got some great feeders,” Jespersen said. “It’s a Keizer thing, not just a McNary thing. Having one of our middle schools that is also seeking to do this is huge.”
At McNary, AVID strategies, like WICOR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, Reading aren’t being taught to just the 200 students in the eight electives, but to all kids. MHS is also working on rolling out a weekly advisory period next fall for students who aren’t in AVID classes.
Since a minimum of 60 percent of teachers must be AVID-trained, one key piece to becoming a demonstration school is holding on to good instructors.
“We think we have a stable group of awesome teachers here at McNary and they’re helping us showcase AVID strategies in our classrooms, they’re helping us hit those metrics,” Rhodes said. “And when they get here, they stay here and they’re awesome here and provide great instruction to our kids long-term and that’s how you achieve and maintain that demo school goal. Because once we achieve it in 2020, that’s the beginning. That’s when we start hosting showcase days.”
“I think that’s really important to highlight, too, is how great our staff is and how happy we are with our staff and that they want to be here,” Jespersen added.
“We want people knocking down the doors to get into McNary and work here because it is such a good climate here.”