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Chatham Central’s educators working toward elite AVID status

BEAR CREEK — Rural schools setting the standard for Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) is not common, said Terry Greenlund, the AVID director for Chatham County Schools (CCS).

Here in the district on course to change that narrative is Chatham Central High School. A team of AVID coaches was on the campus recently to observe how the school’s educators are implementing the program’s best practices known as WICOR, short for writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. The goal is Chatham Central becoming a demonstration school wherein educators from around the country would venture down Highway 902 and turn in to see how AVID gets done there.

Every senior AVID student at Chatham Central has been accepted into at least one four year college,” Chatham Central AVID coordinator Laurie Paige said.

“This approach is very student-centered,” Paige said.

Among the techniques of the AVID approach is empowering students to facilitate classroom discussions. It means teachers at Chatham Central — some with advanced degrees and National Board Certification — have to resist the urge to become proverbial sages on stages, stepping aside to allow students to show what they know.

AVID is a nonprofit organization based in San Diego that trains educators to do what they do with students in view. Granted, that’s the big idea with grade-school education anyway. But test scores and other benchmarks can get in the way. AVID refocuses the learning.

“It helps you stay organized, and it helps you for college,” Chatham Central freshman Devin Cheek said.

“It’s really helpful with keeping you organized and collaborating with other people,” Chatham Central freshman Rayshaun Alston said.

Alston and Cheek were in Karen Heilman’s Honors English class when the AVID coaches dropped by. Heilman’s approach did not change just because the coaches were there —  it’s AVID all day every day at Chatham Central, the students explained.

The AVID coaches are scheduled to return later this fall to help Chatham Central continue toward national demonstration status.