Giving Compass' Take:

• Nick Chiles explains how AVID is working to close achievement gaps in Atlanta-area schools where students of color need support to overcome barriers. 

• Is this the most effective model for closing achievement gaps? how can funders work to close achievement gaps at scale?

• Learn more about what is needed to close achievement gaps

Standing in front of Ridgeview Charter Middle School in this Atlanta suburb, you can’t help but notice the opulence of the homes that surround it. Soaring turrets. Columned entrances. Lush lawns. These are folks who clearly have bitten off a sizable chunk of the American dream.

Inside the doors of the middle school, there’s a different American story playing out. With a student body that is nearly 70 percent Hispanic and black, and with slightly over half of its 1,100 students categorized as low-income, this is an institution that is not serving the homes around it. Most of the students at Ridgeview live in modest apartment complexes a few miles away. If they have school-age children, the residents of the ornate homes tend to send them to private schools outside the neighborhood.

In Sandy Springs, the public schools have had to confront a phenomenon that more and more suburbs around the country are facing, one long familiar to American cities: dwindling percentages of white students. At Ridgeview, as its share of white students decreased, its Hispanic population grew. Now Hispanic students make up nearly half the school; white students are about 30 percent; and black students, close to 20 percent.

The performance of minority students on standardized tests at Ridgeview historically has lagged behind that of white students, according to staff, who note that black and Hispanic students are much more likely to come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Over the past decade, school officials in Fulton County, Georgia’s fourth-largest school district, have experimented with so-called personalized learning, tried integrating English language learners into mainstream classes, and introduced high school-level courses in middle school. But like many other districts around the country, officials here are now turning to a massive nonprofit college-readiness program to narrow the gaps. It’s called AVID, and its administrators say it’s reaching nearly 2 million students at more than 6,400 schools in 47 states.

AVID (which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination) is animated by a simple belief: Once children begin to see some success in school, their self-perceptions will shift so dramatically that they’ll commit to becoming stellar students — and this commitment will propel them through college. It is designed to expose students to organizational skills, peer support, and leadership activities.

Read the full article about working to close achievement gaps by Nick Chiles at The Hechinger Report.