AVID ‘rebranding’ proposed in Lawrence school district’s budget cuts; here’s what that means

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One proposed means to trim the Lawrence school district budget includes cuts to the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.

A “rebranding” or reconfiguration of AVID would save an estimated $100,000, according to district documents. The proposal is one among many on a list that the Budget and Program Evaluation Committee suggested to cut costs as the district faces a budget shortfall estimated between $3.2 and $3.85 million. 


The Lawrence school board on Monday directed administrative staff to look for cuts including the suggestions from BPEC and beyond, and to compile a list prioritizing cuts that will be least harmful to students. 

The term “rebranding” used in some district documentation has caused some confusion and questions. AVID is a global nonprofit organization that aims to “close the opportunity gap” by fostering student academic growth. The program teaches academic behaviors such as note-taking and organization as well as higher-level thinking skills and collaboration for college-readiness. 

In Lawrence, the program is offered at both district high schools, all middle schools, and most recently, Hillcrest, Cordley, Schwegler and Sunflower elementary schools. 

Leah Wisdom is AVID director and director of instruction and professional development in Lawrence Public Schools. She said AVID elective classes, available at middle schools and high schools, specifically serve students who have a desire to attend college and the willingness to work hard but may have barriers preventing them from being college-ready.

Wisdom said the proposed changes to the AVID program would affect staffing at the high school levels. 

Currently, there are eight teachers at Free State and five teachers at Lawrence High who each teach one AVID elective section. Under the proposal, instead of multiple instructors teaching single AVID elective courses, there would be one instructor at each high school to teach all AVID elective courses. 

With one teacher, there could be four to five AVID elective sections taught, Wisdom said. Ideally, there would be at least one section per grade level. 

After establishing one AVID elective teacher in each high school building, Wisdom said the remaining teachers would just fill in to other courses.

“(Remaining AVID teachers) would likely end up teaching a section of something they are certified to teach. For example, a science teacher could be assigned another science section,” Wisdom said.

The proposal could cause disparities for students. Many students selected for AVID are those who are “performing in the academic middle, yet exhibit high potential, strong determination and a desire to attend college,” according to the district’s website. 

“Oftentimes, these are the students who will be the first in their families to attend college and are from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education,” Wisdom said.

Students of color and female students also make up a greater percentage of those enrolled in AVID elective sections than they do the overall student body, according to data provided to the school board in April 2020. 


District staff shared with the school board Monday that 13% of those who participated in a ThoughtExchange online forum about budget cuts self-identified as students. “Almost all” of the students’ concerns pertained to wanting to keep AVID, said Zach Conrad, executive director of data and technology for the district. 

AVID’s other goal is to spread the program’s instruction schoolwide to create or enhance a “college-going, college-ready culture.” Under the proposed reconfiguration, the instructor teaching AVID sections at each high school would also serve as a certified AVID trainer, to provide “consistent, centralized AVID instruction” to all teachers in all classrooms.

“This is done strategically so more teachers in each content area become AVID-trained and can support other teachers in their content area in using AVID strategies in all courses,” Wisdom said.

If AVID instructors are unable to train multiple teachers at each school and demonstrate a positive impact on student engagement and achievement, the district could lose its AVID certification, Wisdom said.

Regardless of cuts, Wisdom said the district is committed to ensuring students would still benefit from the program.

“Our district spends money on resources and programs that support our students, therefore any cuts will be challenging,” Wisdom said. “With this in mind, we will continue to implement AVID at the highest level of fidelity possible given any budget constraints. We are fortunate to have staff and teachers that are committed to the success of all of our students.”

There are 410 students in the district who are enrolled in an AVID elective. At the middle schools, there are two AVID teachers who each teach one course at Liberty Memorial Central; Southwest, West and Billy Mills each have one AVID teacher responsible for four elective sections.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

— Lawrence Times reporters Tricia Masenthin and Mackenzie Clark contributed to this article.

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