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San Marino High School

Opinion: College Board works against students and their wallets

At San Marino High School, you can easily divide the teachers into two groups: those who support College Board, and those who aren’t so favorable of the so-called “nonprofit.” Of course, each faculty member is entitled to their own opinion, but more often than not, a rigidly prescribed curriculum and timetable isn’t the most conducive medium for learning, feeling more like the painstaking regurgitation of one little committee’s ideology than a beneficial process for students. Perhaps that’s where the incentive of college credit comes in, which not even be a reward at all unless students research a year (or more) in advance to see if the college they might attend will accept AP credit.

It becomes quite obvious once AP classes lose their luster that College Board feeds off of the hopes of students instead of actually benefitting them. And even if you cut out the aspect of APs altogether, College Board still yields an overwhelming amount of authority because of one measly test: the SAT.

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Diagram illustrating scores for African American and Latino students vs. Asian and White students (Image courtesy of brookings.edu)

The standardized test has led to the precipitation of prep books (You want Princeton or Barron’s?) and boot camps (ACI or Elite?), creating a socioeconomic disparity between families with the pocketbooks to satisfy the mouths of greedy, score-boosting corporations and lower-income students who rely on financial aid for school lunches. There is an inadvertent bias against African Americans and Latinos as a result, and the test results speak for themselves: the aforementioned minorities constitute 20 to 40 percent of the scores within the range of 300 to 450 points in the math section of the SAT while 30 to 60 percent of the scores from 600 to 800 are from Asian and Caucasian students.

The question then boils down to one point: How do we force College Board to lax their grip on the futures of students nationwide? Because right now, almost all colleges — at the least — take SAT subjects tests into consideration during the application process (most Ivy Leagues require them to demonstrate proficiency in STEM subjects) while the number of AP courses a student takes is directly correlated to their chances of matriculating. In other words, success is too contingent on the checks we sign out to College Board.

The federal government already tried to resolve the racial and socioeconomic disparity in the general admission process through affirmative action, but the attempt to have a sort of “equal and opposite reaction” and counteract College Board’s monopoly was met with animosity and Social Darwinistic attitudes. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that affirmative action is speciously followed in universities where legacies reign supreme like USC or Harvard. So if not towards the government, where do we turn for help to change the status quo?

It’s up to the teachers. As students, we only care about the numbers on paper than the actual outcome of them; we strive for the perfectionist’s 1600 on the SAT, 36 on the ACT, or a 5 on the AP, but we know little about its consequences. So while educators may gain a bonus for a student’s passing score on an AP exam, they also have a responsibility to clear up our misconceptions and remind us that AP courses are not always what we condition ourselves to believe they are. After all, if an AP course is less developed than its counterpart at the university, score submissions may prove to be detrimental as students would lack the fundamental knowledge assumed to be taught from prior curriculum at said colleges (but that is not to say all AP courses lack college-preparatory skills). Teachers involved in the application process also have to put less weight on the SAT; a four-hour test should not possess the same gravitas that four years of grit, time management, and extracurriculars do.

In the top-scoring district for CAASPP’s, we have no reason to complain about College Board save for the money we have to wad out with the rest of the nation when AP’s come around; we’ve grown accustomed to and have mastered the corporation’s playbooks with teachers who can point out AP’s favorite concepts and fly out to grade some of the 5,000,000 exams students take in May. But it’s time we speak for the less fortunate; College Board makes the application process “pay-to-win,” but our education is far from a game.

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