The College Board is at war with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s Department of Education over the Advanced Placement courses on African American studies.
To put it mildly, the College Board is losing.
The Board tried to foist an AP course on Florida students that falsified history, exaggerated wrongs, and used questionable source material to paint a blatantly biased picture of the history of black America.
After pressure from DeSantis and the FDOE, the College Board agreed to make revisions. The new curriculum excised lessons on “Black queer studies, Black feminism, mass incarceration, reparations, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Also missing were important Black writers that had been included in the pilot version of the curriculum, including Kimberlé Crenshaw and bell hooks,” according to Popular Information.
But once that news came out, the Board posted a notice on its website that the revisions could not have been “made in response to Florida” because “the core revisions were substantially complete… by December 22, weeks before Florida’s objections were shared.”
That’s not entirely accurate.
The statement was deleted from the College Board website sometime after February 9. (A cached version remains available at archive.org.) It turns out that the College Board’s primary defense was a lie.
On February 7, the Florida Department of Education released a letter documenting a series of written correspondence and meetings, beginning in July 2022, where the Florida Department of Education expressed its objections to the course. On September 23, 2022, for example, the Florida Department of Education “issued a Memo to [the] College Board stating the AP African American Studies course could not be added to the Course Code Directory without revisions.”
The state of Florida had been objecting to this racialization of the AP courses for more than six months. Then, the Board tried to switch gears and blame the FDOE for not responding to its revisions in a timely manner.
On February 8, the College Board responded with a public letter to the Florida Department of Education. It dropped the claim that it made the changes before Florida objected to the course. Instead, the College Board now claimed that it “never received written feedback from the Florida Department of Education specifying how the course violates Florida law.”
But the College Board’s revised claim is also misleading. Florida objected to the content of the course in at least three meetings before the revisions were made. And the topics that Florida objected to were ultimately removed from the course or made optional.
In a February 11 press release, the College Board revised its narrative again, acknowledging there were both meetings and written communications with Florida prior to the revisions. The College Board now says that there were “no negotiations about the content of this course with Florida.” Of course, negotiations are not necessary when the College Board decides simply to accede to the demands of right-wing critics.
The alacrity with which the Board responded to Florida’s objections makes me think they knew they were out of line from the beginning. The Board was trying to cater to the whims of a small subset of academics at major institutions and woke high school administrators. Acceding to the demands of “right-wing critics” is nonsense. The bottom line is that despite its supposed status as a “not-for-profit” business entity, the College Board rakes in a lot of cash — more than a billion dollars a year.
Before we talk about how they use their money, let’s discuss how they make it. The College Board charges students at every turn. Currently, it costs $95 to take an AP exam. If you register for an AP test anytime after November 14th, that’s an extra $40 added on to your cost, and to cancel a test, it’s $40. To send your AP exam scores to a college costs $15. So if a student took wanted to send their scores to four colleges, it would cost $60 dollars.
More examples of price gouging can be seen when looking at all the SAT fees. The SAT costs $52 without the essay section and $68 dollars with the essay. To see what questions were answered right or wrong on the SAT, the fee is $18 for the “SAT Question-and-Answer Service.”
Just how these fees help “students prepare for a successful transition to college,” is a mystery. And an even bigger mystery is what the hell the College Board spends its $1.56 billion in assets on. It has more than a billion dollars invested in the Caribbean — almost certainly to take advantage of the tax breaks.
The reality is, it is unclear what the College Board does with its money. The College Board makes it extremely difficult to look at what it invests in and how it uses its overheads (I even tried to interview them about it but they refused to talk). The College Board has the moral obligation to be more transparent due to its classification as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The College Board’s lack of financial transparency and dubious foreign investments lead to the conclusion it is a for-profit company. In the end, the College Board just wants to throw more money on the pile, over and over again.
DeSantis is now threatening to take Florida’s business elsewhere. The governor suggested in a news conference that perhaps the state could end the presence of all AP courses, seeking out other avenues to obtain advanced placement courses for Florida’s students.
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“Does it have to be done by the College Board?” he asked. “Or can we utilize some of these other providers who I think have a really, really strong track record?”
“It’s not clear to me that this particular operator is the one that’s going to need to be used in the future,” he added of the College Board.
Whatever the reason the College Board acquiesced to the demands of DeSantis, they didn’t have to make this clumsy effort to cover it up.