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Chatham Central reaches rare air as AVID national demo school

Chatham Central High School became a national demonstration school for AVID on March 28, 2019.

BEAR CREEK — Only a handful of students in the world are getting the type of education that teachers are providing at Chatham Central High School. That’s according to a national team representing Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), which is a system of learning that, in part, teaches students how to take notes efficiently and organize them judiciously.

That team has stamped Chatham Central as a national demonstration school for AVID. It means educators from all over the country are poised to come take notes on a finely tuned AVID program.

In fact, those visitors already are signing up to see how Chatham Central does it. An April 8 showcase at the school will allow them to see what all the fuss is about.

“What they will see is learning at its best, where teachers are setting the stage for students to collaborate and inquire deeply into content — where they’re learning how to be organized and prepared for class, as well as reading and writing in ways that engage student thinking,” said Dr. Karla Eanes, Chatham Central’s principal

Chatham Central is one of a handful of schools recognized by AVID as an national demonstration site, an elite recognition from the organization. Chatham Central — with its global AVID reach — helps ensure a kid like Jack Duan won't fall through the cracks.

Duan, a Chatham Central junior, is from China, and he said the way education happens there is a lot different than how it works here. The language barrier aside, Duan said he didn’t even know how to take notes when he arrived for his freshman year at Chatham Central. So he resigned himself to just writing down whatever the teachers wrote on whiteboards.

Then Duan discovered AVID. It was a life preserver. No more parroting on paper everything his teachers wrote with those dry-erase markers. With AVID, his note-taking became more efficient, more practical.

“AVID showed me how to go to college,” Duan explained.  

AVID also did that for some 80 percent of Chatham Central’s Class of 2019 who’ve completed entrance requirements for four-year colleges, said Sandra Young, the school’s guidance counselor. All but one in the school’s senior class have applied to at least one college, and 89 percent of them have been accepted into a two- or four-year college, she said.

The very dutiful way Chatham Central’s students successfully apply for college is something AVID needs to study and replicate in other schools, said Allen Johnson, the assistant director for AVID’s eastern division.   

By the way, that lone Chatham Central senior who didn’t apply for college is following a family tradition of pursuing military service, Young said.  

Laurie Paige coordinates AVID at Chatham Central. Students there credit the program with helping them understand that college is very attainable for them. Some will be the first in their families to attend college.

Duan’s different, though. He grew up understanding that college is the expectation for him. What AVID did was provide directions to get there. Now he and his Chatham Central family get to share that map with the world.

“It should go without saying how exciting it is to have one of our schools thrust into the national spotlight,” Chatham County Schools Superintendent Dr. Derrick D. Jordan said. “It’s a further indicator of our collective efforts to meet students where they are and work with them to reach their maximum potential.”

AVID serves some 2.2 million students in 6,700 schools in 45 states and 16 countries. Chatham Central joins that international family as one of eight national demonstration sites for AVID in North Carolina and South Carolina. It’s one of two high schools with that designation in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Around the world, there are 195 national demonstration schools for AVID. Chatham Central has joined that elite three percent.

AVID consultant and staff developer Donna Kortvelesy and the rest of the national team spent time in Chatham Central’s classrooms determining whether teachers were delivering the goods. They saw young women and men exuding comfort levels suggesting that they’d done that sort of collaborating many times before, and students were able to articulate both why and how they were doing what they were doing — in other words, it was no dog-and-pony show, Kortvelesy explained.

“Think about all the lives you’re going to help improve,” Kortvelesy said.

Published March 29, 2019