The American Community Schools of Athens has long history of educational excellence. Learn about ACS, and why their students continue to excel.
American Community Schools of Athens
Founded in 1945, the American Community Schools (ACS) in Athens is one of the highest quality educational institutions in all of Europe, and recognized as a model school. After more than 70 years the school continues to grow and provide more opportunities for its students, and not just those of Americans or diplomats. Read on to learn about ACS.
ACS traces its roots back to the British Army. Back in 1945, the Brits set up schools for the children of their military personnel stationed in Greece, in private homes in the Glyfada area. As WWII came to a close, British and American civilians were admitted. Schools operated in homes in Kifissia, Kalamaki, Kolonaki and Psyhico. Later, all the schools were moved to one property in Filothei, and the British School became the Anglo-American School. The first graduating class of 6 earned their diplomas in 1952.
In 1954, the school was chartered in the state of Delaware as a private, non-profit educational institution, known as the American Community Schools of Athens.
With the assistance of public funds, ACS purchased land in its current location in Halandri in December 1960. Halandri served as the main campus, though for a time, ACS operated elementary school facilities in Kifissia and at a nearby military base.
To educate some 30 children of Voice of America personnel stationed on Rhodes, in 1968, ACS expanded to Rhodes. This branch operated for 13 years.
By 1963, the school received its official license from the Greek government. ACS began to admit other American students as well as international expats. Total enrollment for K-12 soared to 2700, and the school continued to expand to serve their growing student population.The following year, the high school was accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges.
Throughout the 1970s, the school experienced continued growth. In 1976, ACS Athens became the only school in Greece where students could earn an International Baccalaureate diploma while they pursued their high school studies.
By the 1980s, the Greek Ministry of Education officially recognized the school as an “educational institution for the international community in Greece” — only the 2nd international school to receive that designation. Then in 1983, when the Middle States Association expanded its accrediting authority to cover elementary and middle school, ACS received accreditation for its K-12 program.
In 1985, the ACS Writing Project was established to promote the teaching of writing as a tool for learning across the disciplines. In 1987, ACS was selected as a sponsor of an International Writing Project site, and ACS Athens faculty taught Writing Project theory and methods to teachers from schools from all over the world. ACS’s academic program was further recognized by The Carnegie Commission for Promoting Excellence in Education, garnering two awards for academic excellence.
With all school operations consolidated to the Halandri campus, more changes came in the 1990s. In 1992, the Greek government voted to allow Greek citizens to attend ACS after completing their compulsory education. ACS was now home to students from 45 countries.
Development Director Constantine Sirigos spoke about the school’s unique status.
“ACS was established through a bilateral treaty between the U.S. and Greece. We’re on very good terms with the education ministry, but we are an independent school governed by trustees and an advisory council. Plus, our alumni love the school and remain actively involved.”
Preparing for 21st century careers and life
Beginning in 1994, faculty, administrators, parents, board members, and students embarked on a strategic planning initiative called ACS 2000, to guide the school’s development into the 21 century. This included a 5-year long curriculum overhaul which prepared students “to face the challenges awaiting them as world citizens in the next century”.
In 2000, the International Baccalaureate Primary and Middle Years Programs were integrated for grades JK-10. In 2004, the Greek Ministry of Education Authorized ACS to offer classes and examinations leading to a Greek high school diploma.
As a result of ACS 2000, ACS created a program to continuously innovate their curriculum, to prepare students to enter the top universities around the world. Over the last 5 years, ACS seniors have a college acceptance rate between 90-100%, and at their 1st and 2nd choice schools. This year, students received $1,242,021 in scholarships — the highest ever.
The school continues to take pride in the high quality of its preK – High school programs.For that reason, they maintain the highest academic standards. Instruction is offered in English according to American education principles. There is also mandatory instruction in Greek. They utilize the latest technology and expertise in the world. ACS remains steadfast in its mission — to train the future leaders of Greece, Europe — and the world.
This year, 2 ACS students earned perfect scores on the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma exams. This non-profit education foundation offers highly respected programs of international education that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn, and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Of the nearly 160,000 students that took the exam, 218 had perfect scores.
Today, 850 students are enrolled at ACS, and another 100 are on a waiting list. Constantine spoke about the students.
“About ⅓ of our students are the children of expats from all over the world; another ⅓ are Greek children. The remainder are U.S. expats, including children of Greek-Americans, diplomats, and an increasing number of Chinese students. One of the successes of this school is the ability to integrate those students into the school culture.”
He said that the high achievement levels of students across the board is a reflection on the school’s philosophy on character development, and is a testament to the teachers and leaders of the school. He said their recruitment process is rigorous, and that teachers are recruited from all over the world.
ACS’s popular summer programs are available for elementary, middle, and high schools. They also offer a special program for students visiting Greece with their families.
“While adults are catching up with relatives and taking care of businesses, kids enjoy our fun and educational programs. There are English segments and Greek language immersion, plus excursions in the Athens area. The school has access to tours and resources not available to the typical tourist. Kids get a great foundation in Greek.”
ACS and the future of Greece
Constantine added that the American Community Schools of Athens is even more important during Greece’s economic crisis.
“ACS is one of the beacons of excellence in Greece during this crisis. It’a place that stands out in Europe, — not just Greece — for educational quality. Also, for those who care about building a New Greece, right here, the education the students receive, is where the future of Greece is being built one brick at a time. We’re nurturing innovators, people able to collaborate with others. We’re creating leaders with ethos and devoted to personal and professional excellence, focused on the good of the community as a whole. Here, the top students will emerge as leaders who play a strategic role in the future of Greece. Even our foreign students see the best face of Greece, see the potential and the future.”
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