College Board Pushes Further into K-12

Karen Arenson:

To generations of students and their teachers, the College Board has been synonymous with the SAT test. But these days it has broader ambitions and wants to reach deeply into high school and even middle school classrooms nationwide.
The board is marketing new products, like English and math curriculums for grades 6 through 12. It has worked with New York City to start five College Board Schools, with plans to open 13 more in New York and other cities by 2007. It is also trying to improve existing schools, starting this fall with 11 public high schools outside New York State and adding 19 next year. In November, it will open an institute for principals.
The board says it is eager to bring new rigor to education. But these efforts are also being driven by the fact that the board, a nonprofit organization based in New York City, is no longer an unrivaled force. It faces strong competition from the ACT in college admissions testing, and some colleges are making the SAT optional. Recent gaffes in SAT scoring raised questions of confidence in the test and the organization.
“We should not say that one size fits all,” said George H. Wood, the principal of Federal Hocking High School in rural Ohio. His school does not offer A.P. courses other than calculus, Mr. Wood said, because they are “too restrictive in terms of content.”
Kati Haycock, director of Education Trust, an advocacy group that supports testing, said she was concerned about adding even more testing, as some of the board’s products do. “It’s a little bit of a problem, with testing, testing, testing,” she said. “School officials are getting sick of it all.”
Still, Ms. Haycock said her group had reviewed the board’s SpringBoard program, which helps shape what is taught in English and math in grades 6 through 12, and found it “fabulous.”