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AVID/TOPS students and supporters gather for a banquet in 2016 celebrating the program.

A new study shows the AVID/TOPS program at Madison’s high schools helps students find success in and after high school.

The study, a partnership between the Madison Metropolitan School District, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative, found “a large impact on initial postsecondary enrollment, especially for low-income students, students of color and students with full exposure to the program throughout high school.” The effect on Advanced Placement/honors course credits, attendance and out-of-school suspensions were “positive, albeit not statistically significant.”

“AVID/TOPS continues to position so many of our students for success, and we are incredibly grateful to the Boys & Girls Clubs for this partnership,” interim superintendent Jane Belmore said in a news release. “Thank you to our AVID staff and our partners for this wonderful program that continues to show consistently positive results for our students.”

MMSD began partnering with BGCDC in 2008 to pair the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) program with the TOPS (Teens of Promise) program run through the latter. The AVID program is part of a national system that aims to close the achievement gap by preparing students for college readiness, targeting students “in the academic middle” with a 2.0-3.5 grade point average.

The program served more than 1,500 students in grades 7 through 12 in the 2017-18 school year, according to the study. Of the students, 20% were black, 40% were Hispanic, 47% were English Learners and 72% were low-income.

The study, which evaluated cohorts of students from the program over its first decade of existence, compared students in the AVID/TOPS program with others outside the program who had “similar academic and demographic profiles” at of the end of their eighth-grade year.

Cumulative GPA was higher for the AVID/TOPS students compared to the control group overall, as well as in subgroups for low-income students, students of color, low-income students of color and male students of color. AVID/TOPS students also had fewer absences and unexcused absences than the comparison group, though those differences were not statistically significant.

In post-secondary enrollment, the study found initial enrollment was 15% higher for those who spent any time in AVID/TOPS than those not in the program — 75.1% to 60.4%. That effect was even larger for subgroups like low-income students, 74.8% in AVID/TOPS and 55.5% in the comparison group, and students of color, 77.3% to 60.5%.

The difference was larger for those students who spent all of their high school years in the program, as well, with 81.9% enrolling in a post-secondary program compared to 60.4% in the comparable group.

That effect is not statistically significant for post-secondary persistence, though the group generally had higher rates of remaining in post-secondary education.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County is committed to transparency, accountability, and the success of our students,” BGCDC president and CEO Michael Johnson said in the release. “These findings are part of evaluating the success of our organization, and they demonstrate the incredible impacts our staff are making through this partnership.”

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.