KO’s website boldly advertises that 90 percent of seniors choose to take at least one Advanced Placement (AP) class, from the 17 AP classes KO offers.
For many KO students, these AP exams — the source of much pain, suffering, and stress — have recently come to an end. However, students are not yet free from the College Board, its standardized tests and its anxiety-profiteering.
It is safe to say that the College Board, a “non-profit” organization, dedicated to expanding “access to higher education,” plays a significant role in not only KO students’ but all high schoolers’ lives. The organization is responsible for such dreaded acronyms as the SAT and SAT Subject Tests, PSAT/NMSQT, AP exams, a pre-AP program called SpringBoard, an Accuplacer test, and the College Level Examination Program (CLEP).
The entire college application and admissions process is centered around these “products,” churned out from Vesey Street, New York City. Despite the relatively recent emergence of the ACT as a main competitor to the College Board’s SAT, many colleges still require applicants to submit SAT Subject test scores. AP exams and their offering of potential college credits are run exclusively through the College Board.
The College Board assigns a disproportionate amount of importance to its tests to ensure that they are a centerpiece in college applications.
As I mentioned before, the College Board engages in a kind of “anxiety-profiteering,” meaning that the “non-profit” creates hugely significant tests, emphasizes their importance, and profits off of students’ stress and anxiety.
The College Board sells prep books for all its exams. For instance, it sells “The Official SAT Study Guide (2018 Edition)” for $28.99,“The Official Study Guide for all SAT Subject Tests Second Edition” for $23.99 and individual prep books for each SAT Subject for around $20.
In fact, an entire industry of test-prep companies flourishes off of standardized testing and student trepidation. Beyond offering prep books, flash cards and other study material, several of these companies offer extremely expensive private tutoring programs ranging from $299 to over $800.
In fact, KO works closely with a company called “Summit Educational Group.” The organization runs the KO administration of the PACT as well as the PPSAT for sophomores, sends representatives to talk to students at various “College Nights” and also offers an SAT prep class for over $600.
All of these organizations and companies — from third-party prep companies to the College Board or ACT themselves — serve to beat students into submission, making them so concerned about the ways in which one exam or standardized test will impact their future that they succumb to the overwhelming societal, educational, and personal pressures to purchase these products. As a result, the College Board turns a surprising amount of profit for being a “non-profit” organization: close to $200 million according to some estimates. This profit-margin comes as a result of a government-sponsored monopoly of the education “industry.”
However, KO, as a school, cannot simply abandon AP exams or discourage students from taking the SAT or ACT because these “hallmarks” of high school academic success are central to the college admission system and without them, KO students might be at a disadvantage. KO is therefore, unfortunately, bound by educational norms that are far from its control and KO students will, for the foreseeable future, be pressured into taking these tests and fueling an industry that exploits their desire to succeed.
There is hope, though. While high schools like KO are unable to challenge the College Board and test prep industry, some colleges have begun that process. More than 800 colleges and universities around the US have announced that they are “test-optional,” meaning that applicants can choose whether or not to submit their SAT or ACT scores.
As the number of colleges with this admission policy rises, students will increasingly opt to apply to test-optional schools, and the entire testing industry will lose power and revenue, hopefully, forcing a shift in the business models of these exploitive companies.
Colleges are coming to the realization that an applicant’s ability to fill in the correct bubble or to memorize a bunch of math formulas or to regurgitate information into an essay or to pay for an expensive private tutor are not great determinants of their intelligence, creativity, engagement or passion.
As a result, many institutions are discarding the standardized test as antiquated and, hopefully, the ripple effect of these collegiate decisions will impact KO in the years to come and combat the culture that emphasizes test scores to the exclusion of education.