How does the AP College Board affect education?


Photo by Scott Graham. Taken from Unsplash.

Carson Beasley, Features Writer

As a student, one of the major types of classes you are familiar with is AP classes, standing for “Advanced Placement.” This program is designed to give students a college-level curriculum and assessment during high school. There are many different classes designated under AP, ranging from AP World History to AP Statistics. 

The amount of students taking AP exams has constantly increased  over the past two decades. In 2017, the English Language and Composition AP Test was taken 579,426 times alone. The program is managed by The College Board, a “nonprofit” organization, ranking as the 40th highest revenue grossing nonprofit in the world. Alongside managing AP classes and the tests that are proctored for said classes, they also manage the SAT standardized test, which is extremely important for college admissions.

The College Board has a massive monopoly over standardized tests for high school students, meaning that there are no alternatives to participating in, and paying for, College Board tests. The average AP exam costs $97, provided you are in the US or Canada (this also includes territories of the US, and DoDEA schools, which are foreign schools managed by the department of defense for use by military connected children). There are also $40 fees for late orders and unused tests or cancellations.

The College board has faced a large amount of criticism over the more than 100 years it has existed, ranging from critiques about fees and revenue, to the sale of student data to the military recruitment program JAMRS, run by the US Department of Defense. In addition, they have also seen many problems surrounding test scoring and reporting errors. 

The main point of this report is to question whether an organization that charges expensive fees to families and students who may or may not be able to afford them should still be able to have a $140 million surplus? They proceed to payout 19 executives more than $300,000 a year, alongside a $1.3 million dollar package for the CEO recorded in 2009. It is an organization that has the control over tests that can decide whether or not someone could be the first in their family to go to a great college. The College Board has shown to be a seemingly incompetent and profit-minded organization.

Mr. Watson, a teacher at Butler Traditional High School was interviewed about his thoughts on AP classes, The College Board, and what he thought about the system overall. When asked if he had any issues with the AP curriculum, he said, “For the AP curriculum, I feel that College Board needs to be a little more specific with the content that they want to be covered, with the mass variety of textbooks and resources that are available out there.” He went on to say, “I wish it was more narrow [of] an approach, which would make it a little easier for students to be prepared for the AP exam, where different materials may cover the same topic in a different way.” Mr. Watson ended by saying, “It would be a little better, I think, for it to be more consistent for the AP exam at the end of the year.” 

When asked about whether or not The College Board should stay classified as a nonprofit, and about controversies related to The College Board, he also stated he had not heard about any major controversies, and that profit surpluses can be okay for nonprofits, as long as the funds “go back to those in which nonprofit is intended to be serving.”

This shows how many things The College Board has direct control over can lead to many impactful changes to the classroom, and the testing environment, bringing up factors like specificity in the curriculum and resources or textbook varieties and how these may impact the results of the classes and the AP exams they lead to.