In our July 15 report on the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college readiness program, The Tampa Bay Times estimated the cost of sending teachers to summer training in Orlando at up to $1,000 per teacher. Sometimes it’s higher and sometimes it’s lower, depending on factors such as whether teachers can share hotel rooms. Roughly 600 attended this year from the Tampa Bay area.
Hillsborough County, which has the most AVID schools in Florida (73) incurs one of the highest costs. This year it was estimated at $315,688.50, an average of $865 per teacher.
But it could have been higher, and in some years it is has been a good deal higher. In 2011, the school district says it spent $480,699, down from $481,855 in 2010.
Why so much? Training used to last five days. But, aware of tight school district budgets, the organization condensed its program to make for fewer hotel nights. And contracts with AVID require schools new to the program to send more staff. In the early years, according to the Hillsborough reports, per-school costs were as high as $11,110 for ten participants.
Shortly before this year’s training, Hillsborough officials asked the California-based organization for a discount on program registration. That 10 percent reduction knocked the cost down to $4,324.50 per school, with each participating school sending five teachers or administrators.
Training is at the Ritz-Carlton and adjoining JW Marriott hotels. While the two charge the same nightly conference rate, image-savvy school districts avoid booking the Ritz. Funding comes from a variety of sources including federal small learning community grants and Title 1, which supplements spending for lower-income schools.
Proponents of AVID say it is invaluable in preparing at-risk students for college by honing their study skills, enrolling them in Advanced Placement courses and creating an atmosphere of encouragement and support. But research experts, including those at the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse, say the program’s effectiveness has not been proven scientifically, and should be studied under more rigorous standards.