These days, the word 'avid' can be used two different ways at Rosa Parks Elementary.

The dictionary definition of the word - having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something.-- can be used to describe Principal Angela Richburg as she talks about the school being the latest TPS building to embrace the the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.

"We needed a building-wide, common language and AVID is it because it is close to our mission, focusing on making students college ready and closing that achievement gap to prepare our kids to be college and career ready," she says. "We're working hard to change our culture and climate."

The national AVID program works to close the achievement gap by preparing all students to complete high school and be ready for college or success in the global economy. First started at Woodward and Scott high schools five years ago, the program expanded to the elementary level when Glenwood Elementary adopted the teaching strategies three years ago. Sherman Elementary is in its second year as an AVID school and this school year, Waite High School and Jones Leadership Academy - as well as Keyser, Marshall, Robinson and Spring elementary schools have joined Rosa Parks in adopting the AVID program.

"AVID offers our teachers, students, community partners and parents a common language towards instruction and clear expectations of college and career readiness for ALL students," said Jennifer Lawless, the district's director of strategic initiatives who has been involved with AVID since the beginning.

The AVID program uses WICOR (writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading) strategies as a way for students to prepare for the rigors of college or the career world.

Two ninth graders at Jones - Whitney Hughes and Dante Moore - recently spoke to the Board of Education about how happy they are the school has adopted the program.

"I am learning the skills of academic instructions, tutorial support and motivational activities that I will need to be a role model and to be able to perform on a national and global stage," Miss Hughes said.

Mr. Moore said he liked that students are active participants in their learning through collaboration and self expression.

"Through AVID, classes are rigorous, stimulating and productive," he said. "AVID prepares me to be a role model, interact with business leaders and organizations, contribute to community work and to exchange ideas on the methods that will achieve my goals to be a successful contributor to my community and my country."

Mrs. Richburg, in her third year as the principal at Rosa Parks, said she and her staff observed at Glenwood before deciding to adopt AVID this year.

She said she and her team were drawn to AVID's four components -- instruction, culture, leadership and systems -- and especially that all teachers are trainined in research-based practices for Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading.

"The important thing is that we are all using the same language," she says. "We're working on collobration and [the teachers] sharing the progress of their instruction.'

Mrs. Richburg is especially excited about a concept, conceived by her kindergarten teacher, of giving out 'Caught Being Avid' tickets. Originally designed for administrators to give to teachers who have embraced the program, Mrs. Richburg is happy to report that students are now giving tickets when they hear AVID buzz words.

"This is an awesome way and a receptive way for buy-in for instruction," she says. "However we can support them, we will."

Mrs. Richburg says she has eight new teachers on staff and they, along with the returning teachers, have 'a vested interest in changing the culture and climate' at Rosa Parks.

Towards that end, the staff came up with this mission statement for the school: At The Rosa Parks Elementary School, our mission is to produce future leaders by instilling academic excellence and life skills that moves our community forward in a changing world.

Every classroom door has been decorated in some way to promote a college or university and Mrs. Richburg now has the banners of a number of schools hanging down the long, central hallway of the school.

"We're working on planting the seeds of success in our students," she says. "And success means students take accountability for their learning, their education and their futures."

Envoking the memory of the school's namesake, Rosa Parks, Mrs. Richburg adds, "What a legacy we have to continue."

Posted on September 25, 2015