Spellings Touts Support Effort At Fairfax High

Monday, November 24, 2008

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings visited Fairfax High School last week to spotlight a program she deemed promising for preventing dropouts and getting more students into college.

"College has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have," Spellings told a group of Fairfax students and educators Wednesday. Setting higher expectations and offering more rigorous classes for all students are promising strategies for helping more students succeed, she said.

The Fairfax High program, known as AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, is offered at 4,000 schools across the country and abroad. It provides extra support and study skills classes -- which teach note-taking, reviewing, time management and other topics -- for students with average academic histories and expects them to make above-average strides with a challenging course load.

Many participants are African American, Hispanic or the first in their families to be college-bound. The program has a strong success record. At Fairfax High, nearly all of the 81 students involved have passed state exams, and all seniors in the program will have taken at least four Advanced Placement classes by the time they graduate, officials said.

Administrators who met with Spellings talked about "AVID"-izing the whole school, training other teachers to set high expectations and challenging more students academically. The countywide budget for AVID this year is about $747,000, an amount that could be cut because of fiscal troubles.

-- Michael Alison Chandler

© 2008 The Washington Post Company