Advanced Placement classes embezzle education

Pathfinder Editorial Board

For 118 years, College Board has owned somewhat of a monopoly on college admissions examinations. The only other organization in the United States that exists for this purpose is American College Test (ACT) incorporated. The College Board’s first widely-used test was the SAT, whose preparatory exam, the PSAT, is offered at West every year. After the SAT was introduced in 1926, AP tests followed in 1952 and both tests have only expanded with time; SAT now has individual subject tests and College Board offers over 30 AP tests. Through these tests, College Board, a listed non-profit organization, makes millions of dollars and pays hefty salaries to its board members.

A $783,076,642 revenue in a self-proclaimed not-for-profit organization simply doesn’t add up. From 2011-2012, College Board president Gaston Caperton so charitably limited his salary to a cool $1.5 million, reaping the benefits of middle class families taking a hit of up to $700 for a student to take AP tests. This glaring figure cannot be ignored, and casts College Board in a suspicious light. Are they really looking out for our education, or do they simply want our money?

In Missouri, public high schools can earn points on their annual state-issued performance report card for the number of students they have that get a “3” or higher on an AP exam. The state of Missouri is incentivizing schools to push all students enrolled in AP classes to take its corresponding AP test, regardless of whether that test will give them credit after high school. Even though 2,900 higher education institutions grant credit for AP examinations, there are still approximately 2,400 that do not do so. Students are pushed through the pipeline all the same, just to check the box on their school’s report card.

West, understandably, strongly encourages all of its students to try AP, with more AP classes replacing honors versions every year. Teachers’ tagline when registration rolls around is always “The test is worth a shot; it can only help you.” While the effort to heighten student education can be seen, the real benefactor is not the students; once students become upperclassmen, they are often taking four or five AP classes, each with an hour or more of homework per day, resulting in sleepless nights, high stress and anxiety—all so that they can sit through up to 20 hours of grueling examinations in May for a single number that may not even help their future. Some students handle this pressure well, but many are needlessly overworked for the sake of College Board’s profit and Parkway’s good reputation.

College Board’s money trail leads to nothing but questions and Missouri’s own rating systems give schools motives to mindlessly shove every pupil into an AP class in the hopes of another “3”. Meanwhile, schools that cannot afford to offer AP classes are being left further in the dust, risking loss of accreditation because their students cannot produce the test scores. College Board and Parkway’s perks are too suspicious to ignore; students become no more than statistics and dollars under College Board’s tyranny of tests.