• St. Louis schools get grant to reduce dropouts, increase college readiness

    ST. LOUIS • A program aimed at helping average-performing students graduate high school and succeed in college received a boost Wednesday to expand its reach.

    A $300,000 grant given to St. Louis Public Schools by AT&T Missouri will help expand AVID college readiness classes at six high schools — Cleveland Junior Naval ROTC, Vashon, Roosevelt, Sumner, Gateway STEM and Soldan International Studies. The acronym stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. The elective classes have shown success in helping average-performing students improve skills such as reading comprehension, organization and note taking, leading to greater success in the classroom.

    “We’re absolutely focused on the kids in the middle,” said Wendell Brown, senior director of the Dallas-based nonprofit organization behind AVID. The classes target students who are at greater risk of dropping out — those who tend to make B’s and C’s and whose parents never attended college. After three years or more in an AVID class, Brown said, data show that 95 percent of students meet college entrance requirements.

    “We teach them how to be good students,” Brown said.

    John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri, presented the check to district officials at Cleveland Junior Naval ROTC, a magnet high school on the western edge of Tower Grove Park. Downstairs, about 20 students were in an AVID class, working with tutors and their teacher on coursework by presenting how to work through problems and find answers.

    “A lot of people have good ideas,” Sondag said. “But if they can prove it works, and this one does, we will give it support.”

    About 300 students are taking AVID classes at the six high schools. The grant money will allow for more classes, and it will allow the district to teach the strategies to other students throughout the schools, potentially reaching 3,400 students.

    “Equipping students with the resources and skills that they need to achieve college, career and life success is fundamental to our mission,” said David Hardy, deputy superintendent the city school system. “AT&T’s support will help enable our efforts to close the achievement gap and prepare St. Louis students for their next step in life.”