CHANDLER, AZ — Inside Kyrene Aprende Middle School in Chandler, there’s an academic revolution taking place for children with learning disabilities.
These students racing into a classroom where they are mastering what’s called the AVID learning system.
Short for Advancement Via Individual Determination, the system is a framework where they learn how to take detailed lecture and reading notes, organize their schoolwork, and collaborate to achieve despite their limitations.
“We actually think of our classroom like a big old family,” said 8th grader Raiden Stroh.
Stroh gets together with that family once a day, creating a supportive peer learning environment free of judgment.
“It actually really helps because you can ask them for help and if they know something better... that you don’t really know, it helps a lot because they can give you really good advice,” said Stroh, of his classmates.
Those in this class, like Stroh, are capable of more than their grade point average suggests.
Unlike math and biology, this class is helping these students to learn with proven techniques so they can achieve more success when taking rigorous courses.
“It really helps me to focus on what’s due, when it’s due and when to do it,” said Stroh.
“All of our kids have great intelligence, they just have a problem with either reading, writing, math, social skills, communication,” said special education teacher Katie Desserres.
Desserres says along with teaching students how to take better notes and ask better questions, they’re also taught how to advocate for themselves by learning more about their challenges and what accommodations are available to them through their individual education plans.
“They are able to ask for what they need, like if it’s a copy of notes, they can ask the teacher, 'Hey on my IEP it says I need a copy of notes,'” said Desserres.
That could also mean asking for extra time for test taking or getting approval to use dictation software. That knowledge is empowering them to change their academic trajectory, which is something Principal Renee Kory says they’re already seeing.
“In all of our AVID students, every single one of them increased on their AZ merit scores, every single AVID student has increased their attendance,” said Kory.
She says enrollment in the class is increasing dramatically too as word spreads about the success students are experiencing. All of it adding up to a more promising future for students who’ve faced far too much doubt in the past.