Anderson Receives Grant For Counselor Network

Director of College Counseling John Anderson will now have $9,000 more to help connect a nationwide association of independent school college counselors, courtesy of an Abbot Grant awarded last month. Counselors at 20 independent U.S. secondary schools are the founding members of the now functional Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS). The group plans to open a national office in either New York City or Washington, D.C., although it is registered as a nonprofit in the state of Massachusetts. Other founders in addition to Anderson include Marty Elkins, the director of College Counseling at the Groton School, and Elizabeth Dolan, the director of College Counseling at Phillips Exeter Academy. ACCIS is a volunteer organization, so its member counselors are responsible for completing most of the group’s work instead of a paid staff. The association plans to provide professional development opportunities and help its members “be the best college counselors we can be,” Anderson said. The organization hopes to serve as a network of college counseling information among its members, improving communication between independent school counselors across the nation. “The unified voice of a hundred people, speaking together, will certainly be stronger than the voice of one individual,” Anderson said. Each member of ACCIS must belong to the National Association of College Admission Counselors and the National Association of Independent Schools. ACCIS is open to all independent school counselors because it hopes to present a “private school voice” in issues where the interests of public and private schools differ, Anderson said. The organization’s chief goal is to become a recognized voice capable of shaping public policy issues that affect independent high schools, such as standardized testing. It also hopes to aid its member schools by improving the practices in college counseling offices and making college counselors more useful to students. One issue that will be discussed is the Advanced Placement Course Audit, which began in the 2007-2008 school year. This new policy, which required The College Board to authorize a course syllabus before deeming it an A.P. course, brought about endeavors by public schools to receive funding for more A.P. courses through modeling their courses to satisfy the expectations set by College Board. Private schools, such as Phillips Academy, differed in their reactions to the change in policy. Anderson said, “The curriculum is developed by the faculty; if that coincides with the A.P syllabus requirements, then great.” Andover’s science and math departments offer many A.P. courses, but in departments such as English and History, A.P. courses are scarce. According to Anderson, academic freedom is most important to the school, so course syllabi are developed in the best interests of the students, not in order to meet expectations of the A.P. Course Audits. “We think we offer the best course possible in [classes such as] U.S. History,” said Anderson. On critical matters, such as the A.P. Course Audit, ACCIS can add a stronger viewpoint that is specific to independent secondary schools. Given that approximately 300 college counselors recently attended an ACCIS informational meeting, Anderson expects ACCIS to potentially grow to several hundred members.