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C'est la Z

Why the Thomas Friedman's editorial on the College Board's Two Codes left me concerned

There was some buzz over this editorial about the College Board last week. The two codes every child needs - Coding and the US Constitution? Who could argue with that.

I'm not going to disagree. Civics and CS are important and can't wait until college. The thing that left me chilled though was that nobody's paying attention to the fact that the College Board - a private entity with its own interests has so much influence over American education.

In the piece, Friedman states:

So rather than have SAT exams and Advanced Placement courses based on things that you cram for and forget, they are shifting them, where they can, to promote the “two codes.”

In 2016, the College Board completely revamped its approach toA.P. computer science courses and exams.

Nothing wrong here but the AP program is supposed to offer "college level" work in high school. Back when the program started, from best I can figure, they offered exams based on courses that were essentially HS implementations of college classes. Now they're flipping the script. They're dictating what they think should be taught at the high school level and, oh by the way, it's college level because it has the AP designation. The editorial goes into some details. Now, I'm not against what they're doing with AP US Gov, it sounds like a really good idea. I'm against their overall influence.

The biggest concern I had though was with this:

Besides revamping the government course and the exam on that subject, Coleman and Sanford in 2014 made a staple of the regular SAT a long reading comprehension passage from one of the founding documents, such as the Constitution, or another important piece of democracy, like a great presidential speech. That said to students and teachers something the SAT had never dared say before: Some content is disproportionately more powerful and important, and if you prepare for it you will be rewarded on the SAT.

If we put this on the SAT, schools will teach it so the kids will do better the SAT.

This should be chilling to everyone.

No, I'm not against the details but it's frightening to have a private entity with so much influence on public policy like education. Ultimately, it can't be good. Just because what the College Board's pushing in terms of civics jives with me doesn't mean they should be able to influence and manipulate curriculum across the nation to such a degree. The College Board is pretty much accountable to nobody. As long as students are told to take AP classes and the SAT, particularly with politicians and boards of education agreeing to pay the college board with taxpayers money, the public has very little say. Sure, more better civics and CS is good but who's to say the next initiative will be in the public's interest?

The same can be said for any of the major education players - for and non profit alike both in and out of CS. We have to be more aware, vigilant, and vocal when the power players accomplish things by being the 800 pound gorilla even when we agree with what some of those things are.

This is a big reason why I frequently speak out against the College Board and other power players, some of whom I greatly like, respect, and admire, and feel that others should feel obligated to do the same.

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