The AVID College Readiness System (ACRS): A Discussion of Comprehensive Strategies for Student Success and School Transformation

The AVID College Readiness System (ACRS): A Discussion of Comprehensive Strategies for Student Success and School Transformation
The AVID College Readiness System (ACRS): A Discussion of Comprehensive Strategies for Student Success and School Transformation


The AVID College Readiness System (ACRS): A Discussion of Comprehensive Strategies for Student Success and School Transformation, Friday, June 21, 2013, 12:00-1:30 p.m.

Numerous studies have indicated that while most student aspire to attend college, less than half are academically qualified for postsecondary success and the rates for minority populations are significantly higher than their white peers.  In order to address this knowledge and skill gap, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) has developed the AVID College Readiness System (ACRS) which aims to accelerate student learning using research based methods of effective instruction.


This forum provided a close look at the AVID College Readiness System and its implication across K-12 and higher education institutions.  Through an examination of this system, the panel offered some thoughts on the role of federal policy in supporting and improving transitions through K-12 and into postsecondary education for all students. Presenters included Rob Gira, Executive Vice President, Quality, Research and Communication, AVID National Center; Dr. Michael Grego, Superintendent, Pinellas County School Board; Dr. Peter Noonan, Superintendent, Fairfax City Schools; Derek Steele, AVID Program District Director, College Success Program, Fairfax County Public Schools; and Cindy Zavala, AVID Alumni, Junior, American University.”


Presenter Biographies


Beginning his 18th year with AVID, Rob Gira is responsible for overseeing AVID Center’s Quality, Communication and Research teams, including certification, research, marketing and communications, and quality. During his tenure at the AVID Center, Rob has led a variety of curriculum and professional learning projects, including the schoolwide Path materials, tutorial curriculum, critical reading, and leadership trainings. He is responsible for AVID Center’s professional learning at summer institutes and oversees other initiatives, including equity, closing the gender gap, and acceleration for English Learners. Rob also leads AVID’s National Conference.

As a staff developer, Rob has provided instruction at AVID Summer Institutes for administrators as well as for AVID National Demonstration Schools, and has conducted tutor trainings throughout the U.S. Beginning in 1994, Rob created AVID’s journal ACCESS and has been its lead writer and interviewer. He is currently the lead contributor for AVID’s blog Adventures in College & Career Readiness. Rob writes regularly about equity, student development, the brain, resilience, and school culture, among other topics.

Rob received his B.A. in English from UC Santa Barbara, a teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and his M.A. and administrative credential from San Diego State University. Before joining AVID in 1994, he was an administrator at two high schools in San Diego County, Rancho Buena Vista High School and Vista High School. He taught English in the Vista Unified School District for ten years.


Michael A. Grego, Ed.D., began his first day as superintendent on Sept. 26, 2012, a day after his contract was approved by the Pinellas County School Board. Dr. Grego was selected following a national search.

Before joining the district, Dr. Grego held a job as an associate professor at the University of Central Florida. An educator with more than three decades of experience in public education, Dr. Grego spent five months as Florida’s Interim Chancellor of K-12 Education in 2011.

From 2008 to 2011, Dr. Grego served as superintendent of Osceola County, where he oversaw dramatic academic improvements in the district.

Dr. Grego began his career in Hillsborough County as a teacher in 1980. He climbed the ranks over his 28-year career in the district to become assistant superintendent for technical, career and adult education in 2000 and assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in 2002.

A New York native, Dr. Grego earned a Bachelor of Science degree in technology education from the State University of New York in Oswego. He holds two master’s degrees in education, one in industrial technology education from Illinois State University and another in educational leadership from the University of South Florida. He also holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership from the University of South Florida, Tampa.

Dr. Grego has received numerous recognitions and awards, including two in recent years for his efforts to promote arts education. In 2010, the Florida Alliance for Arts Education recognized him with an annual Superintendent leadership award for his efforts to promote arts education, and the previous year, the Florida Music Educators Association named him Superintendent of the Year for his ardent support of music education.


In March 2012, Dr. Peter Noonan was named Superintendent of Fairfax City Schools and began serving in this capacity on July 1, 2012.

He began his career as a special education teacher at Roosevelt Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico and was named Teacher of the Year in 1993. Dr. Noonan joined Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in 2001 and most recently served as the assistant superintendent for the Instructional Services Department. Prior to this appointment in August 2007, he served as assistant principal at Langley High School, as principal at Lanier Middle School and Centreville High School, and as assistant superintendent for Cluster VII schools which include the Centreville, Chantilly, and Fairfax High School pyramids within the county.

Among his accomplishments, he received the Phi Delta Kappa 2008 Educator of the Year Award.  Out of hundreds of possible candidates, Dr. Noonan’s leadership was featured in Young Leaders, Top Educators under 40 (Scholastic Administrator, February 2009). He was honored the Phi Delta Kappa Leadership Award in May 2012 for his outstanding leadership in FCPS.

Dr. Noonan has earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico and completed studies to earn the education specialist designation in educational administration from that institution.   In November, 2011, he completed his doctorate in education from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).

Dr. Noonan has made numerous professional presentations, including workshops on establishing professional learning communities, providing extra time and support for students, and integrating technology into education. He is a coauthor of The Collaborative Administrator – Working Together as a Professional Learning Community as well as other publications.

Dr. Noonan is the proud father of Emily, grade 8, and Brylan, grade 4.


Derek E. Steele is currently the District Director for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).  He has served in this role since 2006. Currently in FCPS, AVID is in 21 schools, 9 high schools, 10 middle schools, and 2 secondary schools (middle and high school combination).  Mr. Steele has served as an AVID National Summer Institute Trainer from 2007-present.  In this capacity, he provides high engagement professional learning strategies for administrators who implement the AVID College Readiness System in their respective districts.  In 2011, Mr. Steele facilitated the Summer Institute Schoolwide /National Certification focus group to gather data for the National AVID Schoolwide/Districtwide task force.  Mr. Steele’s professional experiences include AVID consultant, AVID elective teacher and coordinator, middle school math teacher, high school math instructor, and high school psychology teacher.

Mr. Steele obtained his B.S. in Psychology from James Madison University and his Master’s in Education Administration and Supervision from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech).

AVID’s national networking and training system has sharpened Mr. Steele’s ability to evaluate, analyze, and implement AVID in order to enhance the quality and growth of AVID from both a schoolwide and districtwide perspective.  During his tenure as District Director, AVID has been strengthened with both growth and quality.  Mr. Steele has helped 14 veteran sites build capacity while supporting the implementation of six new schools.  Additionally, one high school (Falls Church HS) and one middle school (Glasgow MS) hold the distinction as an AVID National Demonstration Site.  Three more schools have been identified as emerging AVID National Demonstration sites which provides a glimpse of evidence of the districtwide impact of the FCPS AVID College Readiness System.


Cindy Zavala is currently a student at American University, majoring in Public Communication with a minor in Literature. She was part of the AVID program in the 8th grade until she graduated from high school. Recently, Cindy led an Alternative Break trip to Cuba through the Center for Community Engagement and Service at American University, which focused on access to a higher education and used the AVID program as model. Cindy has also interned and worked at various organizations including the National Council de La Raza, Fundasal-USA, and ACOSAL-USA.


Recommended Resources

Click here to view the Powerpoint Slide Deck from this event (PDF)»

Click here to view the Fact Sheet from this event (PDF)»

Click here to download and view the Forum Brief for this event (PDF)»

Presenter Information

Rob Gira

Executive Vice President

Quality, Research and Communication

AVID National Center 

9246 Lightwave Ave.

Suite 200

San Diego, CA 92123

(858) 380-4800

Dr. Michael A. Grego


Pinellas County School Board

301 Fourth St. SW

Largo, FL 33770

(727) 588-6000

Derek Steele

AVID Program District Director

College Success Program

Fairfax County Public Schools

8115 Gatehouse Road

Falls Church, VA  22042

(571) 423-4418


Dr. Peter Noonan


Fairfax City Public Schools

8115 Gatehouse Rd

Falls Church, VA  22042



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