My Problems with the College Board - An Editorial

By Bill Phan

If you are a high school student or have been at some point in your life (chances are, that’s the vast majority of people reading this), then you might have heard of the College Board. According to them, they are “a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success.” This might sound really vague, and it truly is. Now, I’m going to be one-sided here, and that’s because this is an editorial. But some of the problems the College Board has really seems to contradict their philosophy. Therefore, I’m going to draw some attention to some of these problems.

The first problem I want to talk about is the College Board’s AP program. Centennial offers 13 AP courses, so you probably have attended, are attending, or have heard about them. The problem with them is that the prices of the AP test, the culmination of all of your hard work in AP classes costs $94 if the school does not receive aid from the state. While Centennial offers these AP tests at a lower price ($55), students from schools that don’t receive aid carry much more of a financial burden, especially if they are from a lower-income household.

An additional problem lies specifically in AP classes’ regimentation of memorization. According to PrepScholar, “AP still tends to be seen as a shallow, memorization-based program,” having too much material for too little time. Especially in classes where students are expected to learn the same amount of material but have only every other day to attend an AP class, such as AP Human Geography here at Centennial, AP’s memorization-heavy curriculum only serves to further burden students.

Additional problems such as colleges not always accepting AP classes for college credit and students being burnt out because they stuff their schedules with all AP classes also exist. If students are being increasingly discouraged and tired out by the workload of multiple AP classes, yet view taking many AP classes as necessary for gaining entrance to a college, their performance across AP classes and other classes suffer. It’s truly a toxic cycle that is perpetuated by the College Board’s practical monopoly on education.

Further problems with CollegeBoard programs include the esoteric language of SAT questions. Sometimes the English used by SAT questions can be so complex that students who didn’t have English as their first language would struggle at. Since, according to Reuters, there are 4.5 million English learning students in public schools (4.5% of the public school population and of which I used to be part of), it is easy to see how complicated language on SAT tests (and consequently AP tests and curriculums) can create disparities between immigrant children and natural-born children, perpetuating racial and income inequalities.

What I think is the worst problem though, is with the ability to increase AP class performance, just like any other class, with outside help such as tutoring. Because there is so much demand for tutoring in harder courses such as AP classes, tutoring provides an advantage to economically privileged children. This privilege, therefore, simply serves to perpetuate the economic stratification that already exists and just makes the problem worse.

If children growing up receive a message that the system of education that they legally must participate in, the system that touts socioeconomic advancement regardless of race or income, in fact, is monopolized by an organization that calls itself a nonprofit yet

  • pays 19 of its executives more than $300,000 annually,

  • brings in yearly profits of  $582.9 million but only spends $527.8 million, leaving a $55.1 million surplus, according to Slate,

  • And perpetuates racial and economic inequalities, the very problems that education is meant to eradicate,

then we are sending a message to children all across the United States that if they were born into wealth, if they were born into a good school district, if they grew up speaking English, if they had access to a tutor, all of which culminates in allowing them to skyrocket high above their less fortunate peers and sets them on a course to lifelong success, all of this from being born into it, then that is the problem, the core problem of the College Board. And it is a dire problem. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, but the College Board’s power (and very great power at that) is hindering that promise.

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