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Can the College Board Survive the AP Course Fallout Amid Cries of “Racist” SAT Tests?

For years, the Left has called the College Board’s standardized testing “systemically racist” and many universities are abandoning the SAT as a result. Now, Florida threatens to lead a Red state boycott due to the organization’s “woke” agenda.

Over the past two months, the College Board has accomplished the rare feat of uniting Americans on both ends of the political spectrum. Rarely do the Right and Left agree on anything, yet in 2023 they find themselves sharing a common disdain for the prominent nonprofit.

The College Board’s response to Florida’s rejection of an AP African American Studies course in January triggered a weeks-long public relations nightmare. By aggressively responding to reports that they caved to political pressure, the organization’s damage control efforts have backfired and triggered additional waves of media scrutiny. More than 30 LGBTQ groups signed a letter last month calling for the resignation of College Board CEO David Coleman.


In February, CNN called the shared angst toward the College Board a “bizarre irony” and last week Forbes referred to the organization as “a deserving target.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis echoed the sentiments of a Democrat politician in Tallahassee, labeling the AP course “trash.” National Review’s Jeff Blehar called the governor’s high-profile political “win” over the College Board a “substantive achievement with national repercussions.”

DeSantis added that the state had already begun “reevaluating” its relationship with the College Board and would consider using different vendors who provide similar services for high school students. One of those reportedly under consideration is Classic Learning Test (CLT), launched in 2015 as an alternative to the SAT.


It is hard to understate the financial fallout that could hit the College Board if Florida – America’s third largest state – takes its business elsewhere. While the quantifiable figures are in the tens of millions, the potential domino effect could lead to compounding revenue losses in the nine-figure range.

DeSantis’ national popularity adds incentive for other Republican governors to follow in his footsteps. After news of Florida’s rejection broke, Virginia Governor Glenn Younkin called for a review of the controversial AP course. Arkansas, Mississippi and North Dakota are doing the same.

In 2018, the College Board raked in nearly half a billion dollars from AP-related income, including over 5 million AP exams. Forbes’ investigative report in September 2020 estimated that the organization lost $200 million in revenue as a result of 1.5 million students who didn’t take the SAT. The long-standing necessity of the test drove students to take prep courses and the PSAT, which added them to the College Board’s student database. The database is housed within a lucrative division of the company that garnered over $100 million in 2018.


While Florida’s rejection of the AP course triggered a conservative dogpile on the “woke” College Board, the Left has spent the last several years decrying the organization for the great crime of holding black and Latino students to the same standard as white students.

The National Education Association (NEA) declared in 2021 that “since their inception… standardized tests have been instruments of racism” because “students of color have suffered from the effects of biased testing.” The article suggested the tests wield “emotional and psychological power” over test-takers with higher levels of melanin.

“The tests, not the black test-takers, have been underachieving,” Ibram X. Kendi, author of the New York Times’ #1 best-seller How to Be an Anti-Racist, asserted in the NEA article. “The tests have failed time and again to achieve their intended purposes: measuring intelligence and predicting future academic and professional success.”

In the wake of these claims, more than 1,800 colleges and universities – including Stanford, Duke, Vanderbilt and every Ivy League school – have dropped test scores as an admissions requirement.

Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, a prominent historian, best-selling author and senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, believes the Left’s insistence on prioritizing equal outcomes over a fixed standard applied to all students – regardless of skin color – threatens the entire mission of the College Board.

“I don’t know how they’re going to continue if their argument had been that they were a meritocratic mechanism that was not subject to racial or gender bias,” Hanson told The Florida Standard. “That was the idea of the College Board experiment in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s. It was a way for poor people that didn’t go to good high schools but who had aptitude to get a fair shot. And now that’s been discredited by the woke movement.”


In July 2022, the College Board decided to stop reporting demographic data on race for AP test results. Not only did the organization fail to announce this significant change, but Higher Ed Dive reported they scrubbed their website of that data from prior years. The College Board did not respond to a request for comment.

The College Board has tried mitigating the data’s uncomfortable revelations by exhorting schools to “ensure” equal outcomes. Their website states: “As part of its Equity and Access Policy, AP strongly encourages schools to ensure that the demographics of AP classes reflect the overall demographics of the school. Ideally, the percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher on an AP Exam should match the proportion of the population for each demographic group in the school.”


These efforts to placate the Left have consequently soured those on the Right. Years of this buildup quietly fostered frustration among conservatives, which explains why DeSantis felt comfortable enough to admit Florida might move on from the organization that once held a monopoly on college prep for high schoolers.

“The College Board has tried to play both sides,” Hanson said. “They should have just said, ‘We’re liberal institution that’s trying to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds.’ They didn’t do that.”