Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 8

Growth of Md. Advising Program
Runs Into Familiar Controversy
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim
A debate over a plan to expand a
fledgling college-advising program
in Maryland highlights a critical
fault line in the world of college access:
whether to bank on alreadyhigh-achieving
students to ensure
program success or to focus on
those with greater academic needs.
Documents recently submitted
to Maryland lawmakers show that
under the plan to expand Achieving
Collegiate Excellence and Success,
or aces, from the Montgomery
County district to more school systems
statewide, only the top 10 percent
of academic performers among
the state's 47,000 low-income high
school juniors and seniors-or 4,700
students-would get the services of
an "academic coach" through aces.
College-access advocates-including
the director of the program-
worry that such a narrow focus
could shortchange the students who
need help the most.
Leaders in the college advising
field say Maryland's dilemma is a
common one.
"There is certainly a case to be
made that with tight budgets, we
have to do what we can, and making
sure that students who achieved
academically are not left behind
constitutes a first point of triage-a
fair argument," said David
Hawkins, the executive director for
educational content and policy at
the National Association for College
Admission Counseling, in Arlington,
Va. "But there are other students
who can succeed in postsecondary
education, and in these situations,
they get little of this sort of help."
White House Attention
Maryland's proposed $5.3 million
expansion plan-which helps
groups of low-income and otherwise
disadvantaged students chart their
way toward college-is part of a
commitment by the University System
of Maryland to fulfill a pledge it
made during a "call to action" that
President Barack Obama and first
lady Michelle Obama issued at the
White House's inaugural College
Opportunity Summit last January.
The plan-produced by the Maryland
Department of Education, the
Maryland Association of Community
Colleges, and the University System
of Maryland-is also a response to
state legislators' call for a feasibility
study on the expansion of aces.
While not unprecedented, the
planned expansion puts Maryland
among a small but growing number
of states looking to provide college
advising beyond what students are
likely to get, if at all, from their often-overburdened
school counselors.
Some observers, particularly college-access
practitioners in Maryland,
question why aces-which
made its debut in fall 2013-is
being expanded when it has not yet
built a record of success.
Joann A. Boughman, the senior
vice chancellor for academic affairs
at the University System of
Maryland, concedes that aces had
only "anecdotal evidence" of success
when system officials offered it as
a model during last year's White
House summit.
"The White House was asking
what are some of the models we
believe would be successful," Ms.
Boughman said.
Proposed Emphasis Questioned
But the expansion plans show
that officials of the state university
system are banking on already-successful
students to create a strong
track record, whereas the program's
original intent-according to its director,
Karen K. Callender-was to
serve students "who are not sure
they can gain access" to college.
Ms. Callender questioned the wisdom
of serving the highest-performing
students, saying they would
likely find their way to college even
without the help of aces.
That's... a tough policy
choice for a program
that is essentially
saying to some kids:
We can't help you
because you're not
good enough."
National College Access Network
"They're already slated for college,
already prepared, because everyone
supports the top 10 percent," she
Ms. Callender said aces has enjoyed
considerable success getting
students enrolled in college who
were less certain about whether
they could go.
"Many of the students will say:
'I didn't think I could go to college
before aces. I didn't know where I
could go. I didn't know what I could
do,' " Ms. Callender said. "Those are
the kids we want to work with."
Ms. Boughman did not dispute
the need to serve students beyond
the top 10 percent. But she said the
state education officials charged with
expanding the aces program don't
foresee being able to garner all the
financial resources needed to do so.
"Our focus was purely the fact
that we know that there is no way
we are going to take this program
big enough and comprehensive
enough to get to all the students
who need and deserve this type of
help," Ms. Boughman said.
The issue is all the more critical
given the $5.3 million state appropriation
being sought to expand the
aces program-a figure that breaks
8 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 14, 2015 |
down to about $1,100 per student.
"If you're going to spend $5.3
million a year to increase collegegoing
in Maryland, is there another
strategy that could serve more students?"
said Elizabeth Morgan, the
director of external relations for the
National College Access Network,
a Washington-based group that advocates
for nonprofits working to
expand college access.
"That's, I think, a tough publicpolicy
choice for a program that is
essentially saying to some kids: We
can't help you because you aren't
good enough," Ms. Morgan said.
One District's Version
In its current form, the aces
program provides a variety of services
to high school students in
the 154,000-student Montgomery
County system who hail from
low-income backgrounds, such as
those from single-parent homes,
immigrants, those in foster care,
and those who are the first in their
families to attend college or who are
from groups that are historically
underrepresented in college.
The program-a collaboration
of the Montgomery County school
system; Montgomery College, a twoyear,
public college; and the Universities
at Shady Grove, a partnership
campus for nine schools in the state
university system-seeks to "create
a seamless pathway from high school
to college completion." Its $1 million
funding primarily comes from Montgomery
College, Ms. Callender said.
The program relies on paid, fulltime
"academic coaches" from Montgomery
College who are placed at 10
high schools to provide a "case-management
approach" that includes-
among other services-help with
filling out financial-aid forms and
navigating the college-admissions
process in general. It also features
college-entrance-exam preparation
and "summer bridge" programs to
ease students' transition into college
and reduce remedial-coursetaking.
There are now a total of 1,300
aces students, according to a December
2014 White House report.
The expansion plan calls for 38
aces coaches and 19 program assistants
to serve the 4,700 students in
the top 10 percent of Maryland's lowincome
11th and 12th graders. The
intent is to keep the coach-to-student
ratio at 1-to-125 and the program
assistant-to-student ratio at 1-to-250.
Elementary and secondary counselors
in Maryland have an average
caseload of 357 students, according
to nacac, far beyond the American
School Counselor Association's recommendation
of 250 students.
Efforts to obtain complete data
from aces on its students' progress
did not succeed, but the White House
report notes that "98 percent of the
[Montgomery County public school]
seniors in aces applied to a two- or
four-year college or university."
Jamaal Abdul-Alim is a Washingtonbased
freelance writer.
'Near Peers'
Give Advice
On College
they are so close in age and circumstance
to the students."
In 2004, when Ms. Hurd was the
dean of the Center for Undergraduate
Excellence at the University of
Virginia, in Charlottesville, she became
aware of the large number of
high school graduates in the state
who did not go on to college. Thinking
that young "near peers" could be
a motivating voice in high schools,
she secured about $600,000 in funding
the next year to pilot the concept
with 14 advisers.
In 2007, the program expanded
nationally, and in 2013, the College
Advising Corps became an independent
nonprofit. Now, it operates in
14 states, with 470 advisers in 483
high schools, and aims to be in 1,000
schools by 2020. The program is further
expanding its reach through virtual
advising, working with students
via phone calls, texts, and email.
The cac's $26 million budget comes
from foundations and 23 university
'Energetic Advisers'
The advisers, who earn between
$24,000 and $30,000 a year plus benefits,
often are welcome additions at
a time when professional counselors
are stretched thin and a broader pool
of students is being encouraged to
pursue higher education.
"We have so many irons in the fire
that it's tough to focus on postsecondary
planning," Cassandra Bolding, a
school counselor who has an adviser
helping her through the program
at Therrell High School in Atlanta.
Having energetic young advisers
who remember the process because
they just recently completed it themselves
helps relieve the stress on the
counseling staff, she said.
Mandy Savitz-Romer, a senior
lecturer at the Harvard Graduate
School of Education who has written
a book on effective college-advising
models, said young advisers can inspire
and connect with students.
"Peers play a part in forming a college
identity," she said. "As students
figure out who they are, peers are
Roxana Cruz, 25, is a corps adviser
at Tennyson High School in Hayward,
Calif., who grew up with immigrant
Mexican parents who never
went to college. "I'm low-income. I
didn't have anyone helping me family-wise
navigate the system," said
Ms. Cruz.
She tells students that taking out
$40,000 in loans to earn her sociology
degree from the University of California,
Berkeley, was an investment
that paid off, and that the debt is
nothing compared to the career flexibility
and job opportunities that her
education provides.
A big part of her job is to explain
the application process, be a cheerleader,
and build a college-going culture
at her school. "I make a point to
tell them I believe in them and I am
there for them no matter what," Ms.
Cruz said.
High school seniors from the class
of 2013 who met with a corps adviser
were 23 percent more likely
to apply to college, 23 percent more
likely to complete the Free Application
for Federal Student Aid, and 15
percent more likely to take collegeadmissions
tests, according to an
external evaluation survey of the
program from researchers at Stanford
Not to Supplant
Unlike Teach For America, whose
teachers are salaried staff members
of the districts they serve, most corps
advisers are placed in schools at no
cost to the system. Because the advisers
are intended to supplement
counselors, the school must agree not
to fire staff members or reconfigure
its staffing when an adviser comes
on board.
Before starting, the new college
graduates complete an intensive sixweek
boot camp on the program's
partner campuses to learn about college
advising. Once on the job, they
get periodic professional-development
"Nobody wants a 22- or 23-year-old
to say, 'I'm going to turn around your
school,' " said Ms. Hurd. "I tell the advisers
to leave their Superman and
Superwoman capes behind. This is
not about you. This is about holding
hands with our school districts."
One hope among school counseling
educators is that advisingcorps
experience will interest more
students in joining the profession.
Nearly half of incoming advisers
surveyed by the organization indicated
they were interested in a
career in counseling high school
students for college.
At the end of the first year with the
corps, advisers receive a $5,600 education
award to use to pay off student
loans or finance graduate school. Ms.
Cruz from Hayward, Calif., is considering
getting her master's degree in
educational leadership or counseling.
"This is really my passion," Ms.
Cruz said. "Working for the College
Advising Corps would give me the
resources I need to continue in this
Making Connections
In Seward, Alaska, Kurt S. Simonsen,
25, works as a corps adviser at
several high schools with distance
and in-person advising, including the
school he once attended in Alaska.
"It's really easy to identify with
the students that have the need,"
he said. "As opposed to a traditional
counselor, they really listen to me."
To get students who might not be
thinking about college to consider
it, the young advisers get creative
with activities and games. At a corps
training session last fall, advisers
were encouraged to adapt games,
such as Monopoly and Who Wants
to be a Millionaire?, with questions
related to the college search.
"To give them 40 minutes of fun,
it makes them happy and creates a
dialogue for them to come to us when
the time is right," said Molly Thompson,
23, an adviser at two central
Pennsylvania high schools.
The advisers' role is to help the

Education Week - January 14, 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 14, 2015

Education Week - January 14, 2015
Mandatory State Testing on Thin Ice
Feds Confront Doubts in Plan To Fix Tribal Schools
TFA-Like Corps Places Advisers In High Schools
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Pittsburgh Collaboration Seen as Model
News in Brief
Report Roundup
With Common Core, More States Sharing Test Questions
New Study Plan Set on Down Syndrome
Blogs of the Week
Growth of Md. Advising Program Runs Into Familiar Controversy
N.Y. Governor Aims to Flex Muscles On Education Policy
Head Start Partnerships to Provide New Resources, Standards for Day Care
State of the States
Blogs of the Week
FREDERICK M. HESS: The 2015 Edu-Scholar Rankings
How Does an Edu-Scholar Influence K-12 Policy?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
WILLIAMSON M. EVERS: Exit, Voice, Loyalty—and the Common Core
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Pittsburgh Collaboration Seen as Model
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 2
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 3
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Report Roundup
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 5
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - New Study Plan Set on Down Syndrome
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Blogs of the Week
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Growth of Md. Advising Program Runs Into Familiar Controversy
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 9
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 10
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 11
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 12
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Head Start Partnerships to Provide New Resources, Standards for Day Care
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Blogs of the Week
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 15
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 16
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 17
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - FREDERICK M. HESS: The 2015 Edu-Scholar Rankings
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - How Does an Edu-Scholar Influence K-12 Policy?
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Letters
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 21
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - 23
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - WILLIAMSON M. EVERS: Exit, Voice, Loyalty—and the Common Core
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Cover1
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Cover2
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Cover3
Education Week - January 14, 2015 - Cover4