The Lake Tahoe Unified School District promises to prioritize AVID, a college-readiness system for elementary, middle and high school student, despite Gov. Jerry Brown's veto last month that cut $8.1 million in state funding for the program.
"The funnel is getting thinner and thinner, and we have to have priorities. This is one of our priorities. We know that it pays off, and that's the business we're in," LTUSD Superintendent James Tarwater said.
Tarwater credits the Advancement Via Individual Determination program with much of the South Tahoe High School's graduation rate success. According to the California Department of Education, the school has a graduation rate of 92.3 percent compared with the statewide average of 76.3 percent. And at 93.7 percent, the graduation rate of South Tahoe High's Latino student body is the highest of any other of the school's ethnic groups.
"It's the most effective program I've seen and I've been in this business for 45 years. It's eliminating the gap between the different ethnic groups," Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David Gordon said. Sacramento is the site of the AVID center for the Capital Service Region that includes El Dorado county. According to Gordon, the region has 10,659 students enrolled in AVID.
AVID stresses college preparation and raises the expectations of students who might not have considered enrolling in a four-year or even a two-year college. According to AVID data, the system has had success. About 89 percent of AVID students, regardless of ethnicity, complete the course requirements for admission to a four-year state college. That's compared to the California average of 36 percent.
For Ivone Larson, the principal at South Tahoe High School, it's a program for students who have the ability to succeed academically, but who don't have the support system to allow them to do so.
"It's a life plan. It can really change their futures," Larson said.
In 1996, Larson taught the first AVID class in the district. She said she was skeptical of the program until she saw the first group of graduates. Now, some of those students have gone on to become doctors, lawyers and counselors.
"Many of them tell me they would not be where they are now without AVID," Larson said.
The $8.1 million funded the state AVID center as well as the 11 regional centers that provided training and consulting to the local districts. Though Larson says she doesn't yet know how the program at STHS will evolve, she's sure there will be an impact once that regional support system is dismantled.
Starting in fall 2013, districts will have to pay an AVID membership fee, California AVID Division Director Robin Kisinger said. This upcoming school year will serve as a transitional period where the state office will work with the districts to help them prepare for the additional costs and limited support. At the moment, schools still don't know how exactly the impact will play out, said Frank Kovac, an AVID co-chair and teacher at the South Tahoe High School.
"The organization model is going to change. We're going to be a bit more isolated. Now instead of state funding, we're relying on the districts that are in dire straits," Kovac said.
Since AVID is a national program - it serves more than 425,000 students in 48 states - there's still a national support base, Kisinger said. But losing the regional centers limits the efficiency of the whole system.