By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary took a giant step in becoming the first AVID National Demonstration High School in Oregon.
On Feb. 23, Keizer’s high school was informed it was being named an AVID Schoolwide Site of Distinction, putting it in select company with only three other high schools in the state.
“We tell our kids that getting a diploma from McNary High School means more because of the experiences that you get here that you are not going to get at any other 6A high school,” principal Erik Jespersen said. “We are going to be the first national demonstration school at the high school level and as a result of that the things that kids are going to get as an experience of going through McNary is going to be unbelievable.”
MHS submitted metrics from the 2016-17 school year to document school-wide growth and performance in order to become an AVID site of distinction.
Sixty percent of teachers must be AVID-trained. At McNary, that number is 61 and doesn’t count the 19 teachers that went to the AVID summer institute last year to bring the total to over 70 percent. Another summer at the institute and McNary could be at 80 percent.
“Three years ago I told our staff in a meeting in the choir room, if you have not ever been to a summer institute and you desire to go, we will find a way, and we have,” Jespersen said. “We haven’t turned away anyone. We’ve had a great partnership with Nike. They’ve been tremendous. They’ve helped pay for a lot of these trainings.”
Seventy percent of teachers must routinely use WICOR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading) in their classroom instruction. McNary has nearly 83 percent who use WICOR.
While 100 percent of McNary’s leadership team is on the AVID site team, the benchmark is 50 percent. Nearly 85 percent of McNary juniors and seniors enrolled in at least one course of rigor—AP or dual enrollment. Seventy-two percent of students took pre-collegiate exams and more than 73 percent of seniors applied to college.
“This is something that shows you’re above the average school that has AVID are clearly we are,” said Jespersen, who is even more proud of other numbers that have come from McNary using AVID strategies. The school’s graduation rate went up 4 percent last year and McNary seniors received $6 million in scholarships, up from $1.9 million the year before.
“We are producing a product in a McNary High School graduate that is exemplary,” Jespersen said. “That doesn’t just happen on it’s own. That hard work is a result of us having systems in place that are giving kids experiential learning in classrooms in context that are helping create a competitive advantage. That’s really what we’re trying to do is give our graduates a competitive advantage when they apply to college, when they apply for scholarships, when they’re out in the work place, they have all the skills needed.”
Past students are also returning to get help with scholarships.
“The students are coming back because they feel loved and supported and they know that we’re here for them,” McNary AVID Coordinator Heidi Tavares said.
Jespersen has heard that McNary just feels different than other schools in the area.
“There’s a vibe that we’re trying to create and it’s a vibe of excellence and it’s a vibe where we care about our kids and the kids have a really distinct pride in coming to school here and that’s a very real thing and we’ve been very intentional about creating that here,” Jefferson said. “Culture is extremely important. It’s really hard to get but it’s something that you must have if you’re going to have a great high school.”
McNary has set a goal of becoming an AVID National Demonstration School by 2020 as part of the process of being a world class high school.
A textbook and film based on AVID’s new curriculum on focused note-taking, featuring McNary students, is set to be released in April.
“We also want our students to be noticed and recognized,” Jespersen said. “When you go into a classroom with some visitors, I see it, kids have that pride.”