District implements AVID strategies

by Jessica Duff

Pulaski County Special School District is implementing strategies that help improve and evolve our educational processes. Among those strategies is AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.

AVID is a college and career readiness system centered on engaging professional learning. AVID shows educators how to increase student engagement, promote classroom collaboration and activate deeper levels of learning in the classroom with practical, immediately useful tools and instructional strategies. It is research-based with nearly 40 years of evidence. Teachers who participate in AVID professional learning begin to shift their beliefs about teaching and learning, allowing them to cultivate a growth mindset both for themselves and their students.

The AVID Advantage:

  • Reduces variation in classroom instruction
  • Leverages grit and determination of students
  • Emphasizes rigorous coursework, relevance of instruction and relationships
  • Raises expectations of educators, students and their families
  • Re-energizes the staff on campus and in the district
Cato Elementary students participate in an AVID project.

PCSSD implemented the AVID system this school year (2019-2020) at every school in varying grades. All grades in elementary are applying AVID in the classroom, seventh grade at the middle schools and ninth grade at the high schools. More grades in the middle and high school levels will be added in the coming years.

According to Dr. Janice Warren, assistant superintendent for Equity and Pupil Services and the district’s AVID director, more than 200 PCSSD educators attended AVID’s Summer Institute in Dallas or San Antonio this summer. PCSSD administrators and teachers continue to enhance their AVID instruction through training and observation this year. PCSSD hosted the first Arkansas AVID Elementary training for the state in September 2019 and will host Arkansas AVID Elementary in the spring.

“Our first AVID Training was a tremendous success! Positive comments were heard from our teachers, administrators as well as the AVID National Staff Development Team. [They] praised our professional staff for their professionalism and thrust for learning,” said Warren.

Every AVID classroom is unique as teachers adapt the skills they acquire at these training sessions to work best for each student’s individual needs. Teachers apply five styles of learning in the classroom to help their students.


Students work together to master new content through inquiry-based tutoring. Students learn how to ask questions that go beyond memorization and encourage higher-level thinking. Peers ask each other questions that prompt deeper learning, and students know how to articulate their points of confusion.


Students utilize the Cornell note-taking process to create powerful study tools. They are not just copying down words. Students learn to recognize the most important parts of a lesson, create questions to guide their COLLABORATION: Students demonstrate a strong sense of mutual respect and support, engaging in rigorous discourse and building on each other’s thoughts. Collaborative activities are structured and graded to promote participation from each student.


 Students learn soft skills like public speaking, self-advocacy, time management, organization and more. Here, a student is showing her presentation skills by confidently communicating with her group. There are a variety of AVID activities that allow students to hone their soft skills in an authentic way.


Desks and chairs are arranged to best suit the learning activity and to encourage students to talk and to work more effectively together.

PCSSD superintendent, Dr. Charles McNulty, shares his support of this initiative as schools across the district execute AVID strategies. “It’s exciting to see this group of professionals work toward getting our young people college-eligible and that every child gets the right to choose and not have their lives chosen for them,” he said. “This is the beginning of an amazing pathway to equity and excellence.”

AVID continues to gain popularity across the nation as more than 7,000 schools in 47 states implement its structure. Ninety-four percent of AVID students complete four-year college entrance requirements. Of that number, 75 percent are from low-income households and 56 percent have parents who did not attend college. This approach to learning provides opportunities for all students, and especially those who may not have considered higher education as an option after graduation.


The Pulaski County Special School District spans more than 600 miles in Central Arkansas and requires highly skilled and passionate personnel to adapt educational policies and personalization to 25 schools. Every school is accredited by the Arkansas State Board of Education. PCSSD has served schools across Pulaski County since July 1927. PCSSD is committed to creating a nationally recognized school district that assures that all students achieve at their maximum potential through collaborative, supportive and continuous efforts of all stakeholders.