#150 – Benefits of the AVID Program: Results of a UCLA Study, with Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz

Unpacking Education January 18, 2023 30 min

In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz, the lead researcher of a new UCLA study that highlights the significant benefits of the AVID program. The study’s findings—published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ peer-reviewed journal, Pediatrics®—suggest that AVID has a positive effect on students’ social networks, health behaviors, and psychosocial outcomes. Dr. Dudovitz states, “I’m really excited about the study results because I think it really helps tell the story—the important work that AVID teachers and AVID programs are doing all over the country.”

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

The goal of education in America must be for the purpose of teaching all of our students to the very highest levels—for lifting up all people.

Mary Catherine Swanson, AVID Founder

Three Areas of Outcomes

Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz’s UCLA study focused on three main areas of outcomes: social relationships, risky health behaviors, and social-emotional outcomes. In all three areas, she and her team found that being a part of the AVID program resulted in significantly positive benefits for the students involved. AVID students were 1.5 times more likely to socialize with peers who attended every class and 1.7 times more likely to socialize with peers who were engaged in school. They were 33% less likely to use any substances and 35% less likely to be engaged in delinquency. In addition, AVID students showed reduced stress, increased self-efficacy, and increased school engagement.

Tune in to this episode to hear Dr. Dudovitz break down and explain these findings in more detail. The following are a few highlights from our conversation:

  • About Our Guest and This Study: Dr. Dudovitz is a pediatrician and the lead researcher of this UCLA study. She says, “I care a lot about children’s health and wellness and have learned over the course of my career how important what happens in classrooms and schools are to how healthy kids are.” She adds, “This study was really trying to unpack a little bit of that and really understand some of the processes through which schools can set children on a healthy path both in terms of their social relationships and their health behaviors.”
  • Discovering AVID: Dr. Dudovitz learned about AVID by interviewing high school graduates about the experiences that they felt shaped their life trajectory. She talks about these interviews, saying, “I heard many students talk about the AVID program, and in their words, they called it their AVID family. And that really struck a chord in me because a lot of what students talked about was how those relationships that they developed in school really dictated their behaviors, whether they spent their time hanging out with their friends and working on their college applications or getting into trouble, and whether they felt supported by adults in their lives outside of their families or they felt really alone. And they also told me how those experiences, their peers, and the relationships with adults influenced whether or not they decided to get engaged in substance use. It affected their mental health. It affected other behaviors.”
  • The Birth of a Study: Dr. Dudovitz explains that this study was born out of students’ own descriptions about AVID’s influence on how they thought about themselves, their futures, and their relationships on campus. She says, “That got me really thinking about whether we could study this and really try to understand what it is about AVID that might have an impact on health, knowing this is not a program that was initially designed to influence student health. It was really designed to help kids be ready for and succeed in getting into college.”
  • Goals of the Study: ”Our goals were really to understand how AVID shapes relationships with peers, as well as with adults on campus, and to understand how that might impact their health behaviors,” says Dr. Dudovitz. “We also looked at social-emotional skills, like grit, stress, mental health, self-efficacy, and school engagement.”
  • Study Design: Her team followed nearly 300 students who were identified as students who might benefit from AVID. Half were accepted into the AVID program, and half were not. The two groups of students were studied and compared to determine the impact of being a part of the AVID program. The group not in AVID served as the control group.
  • Social Relationships: “After just one year in AVID, students had healthier social networks. They were less likely to have a peer in their social network who was using substances like alcohol and marijuana. They were more likely to have peers who were more likely engaged in school, and they were more likely to have peers who were also in AVID.”
  • Risky Health Behaviors: “Students in AVID were actually less likely to use substances,” says Dr. Dudovitz. “That was a really exciting finding that came out of the study.” She adds, “They had lower rates of substance use, and they also had lower rates of delinquency, which are kind of those illegal activities that lead to interactions with law enforcement.”
  • Social-Emotional Outcomes: “We found that there were really big differences by sex. So boys had improved social-emotional outcomes, whereas for girls, we actually didn’t see much change.” Dr. Dudovitz adds, “For the boys who were in AVID, they had higher levels of grit, lower levels of stress, higher levels of self-efficacy, and higher levels of school engagement.”
  • Tracking: “At a very basic level, our findings suggest that tracking may have really important effects on health,” says Dr. Dudovitz. “We often don’t think about how tracking might be shifting the kinds of relationships that students have the opportunity to form and how that might be affecting their health and well-being.” She continues, “So, if anything, I think our study findings suggest that opening up educational opportunities to all students, and really thinking about breaking down some of those tracking behaviors, might also open up opportunities for students to form supportive relationships with adults and peers.”
  • An Opportunity for an Even Larger Impact: Dr. Dudovitz reflects on the study, saying, “I’m really excited about the study results because I think it really helps tell the story—the important work that AVID teachers and AVID programs are doing all over the country—but it also makes me a little bit sad because I know that there are many more students who could potentially benefit from the program than who have access to the program.” She adds, “For students, and parents, and health advocates all over the country, it feels like a missed opportunity. So, actually, one of the studies that we’re starting to work on next is looking at what happens when you take AVID schoolwide . . . when you really do break down barriers to educational opportunities schoolwide and you really do try to get rid of academic tracking, how does that influence students’ health and life trajectories?”

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What do you know about the AVID program?
  • What impacts can a positive school and classroom community have for students?
  • Which of the study results do you find most encouraging and inspiring?
  • Why do you believe social relationships are improved by being involved in the AVID program?
  • Why do you believe risky health behaviors were lower for AVID students?
  • Why do you believe AVID students showed improved social-emotional outcomes?
  • What are some potential impacts of tracking students?
  • How can you apply the results of this study on AVID to your school or district?