The AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is known nationally for preparing low-income high school students in the academic middle to take and pass college courses, without developmental education classes, from day one. In Madison, this proven program is bundled with another led by the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County: TOPS (Teens of Promise).

Together, AVID/TOPS makes a powerful one-two punch in the fight to close the achievement gap. Independent evaluations by researchers at the University of Wisconsin confirm that this combined program increases attendance, student GPA and rates of enrollment in AP/Honors courses—well positioning them for success in college.

We're pleased to extend our support through 2021 with an additional grant.


The achievement gap between disadvantaged students and more privileged peers is real, and persistent. Students who find themselves in the academic middle—and especially students of color, those from low-income families and those who are first in their families to go to college—can find the transition to college especially vexing. Their passing B and C grades tend to move them through high school with little fanfare, and without being pushed academically in many cases. Fast forward to college, and they struggle to make it in more rigorous coursework.

Also, academic preparation represents only one facet of college readiness. To have any real chance of staying on the path to a degree, students must have a clear picture of where they're headed—and the confidence that comes from knowing they have the ability and support to navigate the twists and turns they'll encounter along the way.


The hybrid AVID/TOPS program initiated by the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, in close partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District with funding from Great Lakes, helps students become college ready both academically and in other ways.

The AVID component involves students taking an intensive elective class over their four years in high school, aimed at preparing them for success in college, career and community. The curriculum focuses on writing, inquiry, organization and reading skills. Small, collaborative tutorial groups help students develop critical reasoning and thinking skills.

The TOPS component we fund adds a host of complementary services to further develop students. Each high school gets two full-time coordinators to provide expanded tutoring and advising, plan college field trips, bring in community speakers, match students with mentors and more.

And because getting students into college is only half the challenge, TOPS also employs three full-time coaches to support students through their college journeys. An enrollment coach supports students as they apply for admission and financial aid, and enroll. A transition coach connects first-year college students with supportive resources on their campuses. A success coach follows students from their second year through graduation, to help ensure they continue progressing toward their degrees.

At the beginning of year three, the TOPS program reported that participating students continue to perform better in AP courses (3.0/4.0 average GPA) than a comparison group (2.56/4.0 average GPA). The program continues to explore ways to add more academic support with an emphasis on math.


Contact Grants Management Supervisor Nikki Wachter at