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R.A. Long High School

For the third consecutive year, R.A. Long High School has been designated a “schoolwide site of distinction” from AVID, a national learning strategies and teacher training organization credited with turning the school around. The award is presented each year to a small group of schools working with AVID to honor their commitment to students, academic rigor and AVID learning strategies.

RAL Principal Rich Reeves said that AVID has been a “game changer” for the school since it started using the program seven years ago.

For example, between 2011 and 2017, the graduation rate rose from 64.6 percent to 96.3 percent. To be considered for the award, a school must have a high percentage of:

  • AVID-trained teachers
  • Teachers using “WICOR” (writing, inquiry collaboration, organization and reading) strategies
  • Administrators on the AVID site team
  • Juniors and seniors in college-level, advanced placement or international baccalaureate courses (or similarly rigorous classes)
  • Seniors graduating high school
  • Seniors taking pre-college exams
  • Seniors applying for and getting accepted at colleges.

All students at R.A. Long take Cornell notes, organize their notes and assignments in “interactive notebooks” and attend “R.A. Long University” college application workshops in their junior year — strategies “pre-packaged” by AVID to help students “learn how to learn,” Reeves said.

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District Director of Learning and Leadership Tony VanderMaas likened it to the idiom “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

“You can teach kids certain skills … but we are focused on creating learners,” VanderMaas said. “If we can give them strategies to be an actual learner at the job or in trades school (or college), now we are on to something.”

Schools participating in the AVID program use those learning strategies in a small group of students in an “AVID cohort” class. But at R.A. Long, every single student is expected to use the strategies in every single one of their classes.

The site of distinction award is “affirmation that we are walking the talk and that the systems we have in place for our kids are benefiting them,” Reeves said.

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