ACES Program Puts Student Success First

Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) is a collaborative effort between Montgomery College, Montgomery County Public Schools, and the Universities at Shady Grove  to support students and provide a seamless path to a bachelor’s degree.  

The ACES program and its success were recently featured in an education session at the Maryland Association of Boards of Education Conference in Ocean City. This article covers that session.

About ACES

Dr. Genevieve Floyd, Supervisor, Career and Postsecondary Partnerships, Montgomery County Public Schools, began the session describing how the program began when the school system formalized partnerships with the Universities at Shady Grove, and Montgomery College to help students move from secondary to college education.

Methods of Partnership

As descried by Callender, methods of partnerships include:

  • MOUs between institutions
  • Meetings between School Board Members and Higher Education Boards of Trustees
  • Connecting teachers with professors in similar subject-areas, such as Math, to discuss curriculum and transitions from high school to college.

Dr. Damien Robinson, of Montgomery College then described additional details about the program.

Membership

The ACES program accepts 60 juniors in high school each year. The target demographics for ACES are children who don’t look likely to be on track for graduation and achieving collegiate excellence and success.

Students stay in the program throughout their college experience. The program is currently made-up of:

  • 1200 high school students
  • 700 students at Montgomery College
  • 500 students at 4-year colleges
  • 38 members of the military

Funding for ACES

  • $2 million from Montgomery College
  • $250,000 from Montgomery County Public Schools
  • $200,000 from the Universities at Shady Grove
callender
Dr. Robinson, whose doctoral thesis focused on the importance of hope to student success, describes part of the vision for the ACES program.

Vision: When a student comes in to the program, they bring their whole family with them – Dr. Damien Robinson

Program Elements

  • Full-time coaches with offices in every ACES high school with students in the ACES program
  • Full-time coaches at the three colleges to support students in the ACES program.
  • All ACES coaches have access to an exclusive database set-up for the program by Montgomery College and shared with Montgomery County Public Schools. In the database, coaches can see grades and other data relevant to the aces program.
  • Coaches provide academic guidance and also social skills training for college
  • Coaches provide FAFSA application help and campus visits and interview preparation
  • The program has limited financial support for some students in program, including stipends and laptops
  • The program works to build partnerships with attorneys for undocumented students
  • The program offers many opportunities for parent engagement, and special scholarship for parents to go back to school, or obtain GEDs

Student Commitment

ACES students also volunteer and work for the ACES program.

Make ACES a Statewide Initiative

Members of the audience showed support and interest in the ACES program becoming a statewide initiative, encouraging Dr. Robinson to speak with Brit Kirwan on the topic.

Align High School Graduation and College Acceptance Standards

Members of the audience also noted the need for better collaboration and cooperation from the state to help set standards for high school graduation that mesh with college acceptance requirements. For example, math requirements for high school graduation should be made equivalent to math requirement for Maryland Community College acceptance.

Base College Acceptance on Meaningful Performance Measures

Dr. Robinson shared how Montgomery College is piloting alternative standards to the ACCUPLACER for college placement. Audience members stated the need for more flexible standards for college acceptance, citing studies that reveal high school GPA as a better indicator of college success than the ACCUPLACER test currently used in admissions processes.

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