College Board is Shaping the Nation’s Education…For the Better?

Bella Carter, Reporter

AP programs and SAT tests are hallmarks in high school education in America and have influence across the world. They are both administered by the College Board, an organization whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. They are a multimillion dollar company as a result of operating throughout the country and internationally.

The phrase “teach to the test” is a mantra uttered by many a teacher and observed by many a student. Due to the ever looming specter of the AP tests, in Mrs. Fay’s AP Statistics course, for example, she finds that because of the fast pace that the class must maintain, sometimes it is difficult to teach everything to her personal standards. “We have to move so fast, that’s the hardest thing… you can’t always go to the depth that you would like to, or spend the time on something if kids really need it.” Despite this, Mrs. Fay comments that the college board is “well laid out” and “organized”, as well as having lots of resources for teachers and students. 

There is a difference, though, between AP classes and the more recently implemented Pre-AP classes. Pre-AP classes are described by the College Board as designed by “backmapping” from AP classes and are meant to provide skills that lead to success in AP classes. Mr. Stevens, AP Psychology teacher, confirms that though AP teachers are provided extensive key points to meet, they are left to develop their own lessons. However, according to Pre-AP English teacher Mr. Brown, the College Board provides premade lesson plans for Pre-AP courses. “The Pre-AP curriculum comes with these things that you could hand out to students…[but] for me, in order to teach anything, I have to know why I’m doing it, and then why I’m doing it the way that I’m doing it,” Mr. Brown remarked, “I think every kid has the right to say ‘why are we doing this?’, and they may not like your answer, but you should have an answer.” 

In a discussion with WSHS AP Coordinator Mrs. Maria Silvestri, she commented that this curriculum model forces teachers to guide students to do their own learning by engaging with College Board content. According to her, “teachers by nature are control freaks, so they like to be the one that’s in charge and always doing the talking. The Pre-AP classes force them to introduce concepts and then take a step back.” 

While the college board provides lots of resources, they are not universally applicable. Mrs. Fay, again in her role as AP Statistics teacher, remarked that the AP videos she is required to assign to her students aren’t best for the class. “They don’t get out of [the videos] what they should”. Mr. Brown also reports that he draws heavy inspiration from lessons others have planned but tailors them to his class. 

While the school adapts the Pre-AP curriculum in such a way that teachers can engage with the lesson planning, it is perfectly functional. However, teacher autonomy is important and could be at stake on a nationwide level. According to the New York Times, when the College Board was developing  its AP African American Studies, Florida lawmakers objected to much of it, resulting in the College Board “remov[ing] or significantly reduc[ing] the presence of many of those concepts — like intersectionality, mass incarceration, reparations and the Black Lives Matter movement — though it said that political pressure played no role in the changes”. Though they claim political pressure played no role, it did end up drastically changing important aspects of the subject. This means that Florida’s objections are influencing the curriculum used across the nation, not just within their state.

If this pattern continues and College Board curriculums are not rooted in fact but instead the whims of Florida conservatives, what does that mean for the quality of education in Massachusetts? As of right now our teachers aren’t obligated to follow AP and Pre-AP courses lesson by lesson from the College Board. But if they were, or have to in the future, could it set a dangerous precedent for education quality?