Innovative high school program helps to prepare youth for post-secondary education

November 09, 2010
BC AVID IIR Execsum EN Xsmcover

The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) released a report today on the BC AVID Pilot Project, showing that a Canadian version of an American college-preparatory program is helping British Columbia high school students get ready for post-secondary education. BC AVID focuses on students who are academically “in the middle” (who might not otherwise go on to post-secondary education), ensuring they develop the academic and organizational skills they need to succeed in further studies.

This interim report shows that offering students the BC AVID program as an elective course in grades 9 through 12 enhanced their educational experiences in the following ways:

They were instructed in, and made more use of, a range of strategies and techniques intended to support rigorous study. Many of these strategies promoted by AVID are considered educational “best practices,” such as Cornell note-taking, higher levels of questioning and problem-solving tutorials. Students offered BC AVID were more likely to be exposed to these strategies, by up to 60 percentage points.

They were more likely to be enrolled in courses that are university prerequisites. For example, in Grade 10 those offered BC AVID were more likely to enrol in Principles of Mathematics (the most rigorous mathematics course in Grade 10) and more likely to enrol in 4 to 8 courses that were prerequisites for admission to university. In Grade 11, these students were significantly more likely to take and to pass the provincially examinable Social Studies 11 course – another common university prerequisite.

The report also provides evidence of an initial achievement “dip” whereby students offered BC AVID typically experienced lower marks in grades 9 and 10 than they would have otherwise, likely as a result of the more challenging courses they had enrolled in. However, this dip did not lead to more failing the courses. By Grade 11, the students had recovered their marks, and were less likely to fail their courses. 

“There may be long-term benefits to providing middle-achieving youth with opportunities to challenge themselves – even initially to struggle – in more demanding coursework, especially when combined with a variety of supports and concrete skills development,” said Reuben Ford, SRDC director of research.

The BC AVID Pilot Project used a rigorous experimental design to study the effects of this new education program, since the program is quite selective of who can enrol. The project assigned eligible students randomly into a program group offered the program and a comparison group that was not. This design – implemented in 14 schools with 1,522 students involved – made it possible to observe precisely what happened to equivalently-eligible students with and without the program and thus to estimate with considerable certainty the impacts of making the program available.

“Canada’s knowledge-based economy needs a highly educated and skilled labour force,” noted Jean-Pierre Voyer, SRDC president. “BC AVID is focused on helping more young people realize their potential through access to post-secondary education.”

BC AVID’s impacts on high school graduation, enrolment in post-secondary education and completion of the first year of studies are the subjects of the project’s final report, due in 2012.

The BC AVID Pilot Project was established in 2003 as a partnership between the BC Ministry of Education and the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. It is one of several experiments established by the Foundation to identify new policies and programs to increase young people’s access to post-secondary education.

   Read the full report.
   Read the executive summary.
   Read the briefing note.

For information on the BC AVID Pilot Project:

Reuben Ford     
Director of research, SRDC   
604-601-4082 / rford@srdc.org 

Heather Smith Fowler
Senior research associate, SRDC
613-237-7444 / hsmithfowler@srdc.org