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C'est la Z

The College Board wasn’t cowardly

As I'm sure you're aware, recently, in his latest racist, fascist proclamation, Ron DeSantis threatened to stop offering AP African American Studies (APAAS) in Florida because, well, we can't actually teach our children anything resembling our actual rather checkered history.

I'm sure you're also aware that the College Board just announced changes to APAAS which basically removed everything DeSantis found objectionable.

I've been seeing articles, blog posts, Tweets and more all calling the College Boards act a cowardly one. I disagree.

To be cowardly, the College Board would have had to have wanted to do the right thing - stick to their current course but ultimately cave under pressure. I don't think the college board cared enough. If you really look at the college board and its history. It's not about education and student opportunity. It's always been about money and brand.

If I remember correctly, the Florida government pays for AP exams (at least it used to). This is a tremendous cash cow for the CB. For them, the calculus isn't "what should students study in APAAS." The calculus is "how much money do we stand to lose." To them, this way they get to keep Florida and other red state money and they're figuring that even the schools and districts who are claiming outrage will still offer APAAS and other AP exams. The schools will vent but ultimately say that they can teach a superset of the AP class.

The College Board wins. DeSantis and the far right nuts win and only the students lose.

I have no doubt that some (many?) will disagree with my stance. Mostly people who have bought in to the college board for years, and in some cases worked for or with them.

One can try to rationalize and say that the capitulation was so soon after DeSantis' proclamation that they had to have these changes in the works already. True but does anyone really believe that DeSantis' public statement was the first time the CB got wind that this was going to be a PR issue they'd have to deal with?

At the end of the day, the College Board offers two things - high stakes exams and branding. That's it. The more tests they sell and the better perceived their brand, the better it is for the college board. It's no about education. If it were, then it wouldn't be all about a single test per subject. If it were, they wouldn't have create the PSAT 8 9. If it were, we wouldn't see the pivot from being about college level courses to APCS-P.

Now, people will say that APCS-P was all about increasing exposure, diversity, and equity but you can't deny that creating an easy AP and keeping the same branding as college level classes all with a tech boom going on was going to sell a lot of exams. Particularly when schools, not students paid and more exams given means higher ratings for schools.

Besides, a broken clock is still right twice a day. CB can be all about CB and not about students but still from time to time do right by them.

I'm also reminded of a report I saw decades ago where the then leader of the CB claimed that the only thing the SAT was a predictor of was how you would do on future SAT exams. Somewhere down the line, that changed to it was a college predictor. That's now being put to the test as more colleges are dropping the exam.

Truth be told, while having SAT scores on an applicants packet has been useful as for baseline comparisons. Now that I'm on my second SAT free cohort I can say that the SAT really isn't important.

While some of us have pushed back, the CS Ed community has been far too accepting of the College Board as they've become more and more influential in the K12 Ed Space.

In any event, we should remember that the CB is a business and the business is in selling exams. They're not teachers. They might hire teachers but they're test makers and have their own agenda.

There's no reason to believe they care about justice or equity over selling exams. They didn't act cowardly. They acted in their own self interest. As teachers, we work in our students best interests.

There's a difference and we have to remember that.

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