Readers may recall that I posted a blog criticizing the College Board for its shameful campaign attacking American education. The ad says that the education system is “crumbling” and calls on the presidential candidates to talk more about education.

The College Board asserts that American education is bad and getting worse.

I received two great responses. One came from the brilliant scholar Yong Zhao, now at the University of Oregon. He makes reference to a valuable comment by Brian, which follows Yong Zhao:

I was going to provide some data to debunk the College Board’s claim that “our schools are performing at a level far below almost every other major industrialized nation. And the statistics continue to get worse every year” with some historical data, but Brian beat me to it with a list of great sources.Here I add some information from the College Board ( ) that seems to contradict its own claim:7.3 point increase since 2001 in the percentage of U.S. public high school graduates earning AP scores of 3 or higher…More graduates are succeeding on AP Exams today than took AP Exams in 2001Since the College Board has been pushing the AP courses as a rigorous academic experience and the AP exam an academically demanding test of students preparedness for college, this shows the U.S. education is not getting worse every year, right?

The AP story may reveal the motivation behind the Ad and the Don’ campaign—more customers for College Board products paid by tax dollars.

According to the College Board 2011 AP report, the number of students who took the AP exam more than doubled in a decade: 431,573 in 2001 to 903,630 in 2011. And an Associate Press story May 2012 says “2 million students will take 3.7 million end-of-year AP exams.” The fee for each AP Exam in 2012 is $87 and that is $321.9 million total.

For low-income students, the Feds provide $53 per exam, meaning we, the taxpayers are paying for students to take the AP exam. 612,282 out of the 903,630 in 2011 were taken by low-income graduates paid by the taxpayers. Not a problem for me, if it truly helps the students. But it is not. It is just one more way to demoralize the struggling poor students. From the Associated Press story:

Nationally, 56 percent of AP exams taken by the high school class of 2011 earned a 3 or higher, but there are wide disparities. The mean score is 3.01 for white students and 1.94 for blacks. In New Hampshire, almost three-quarters of exams earn a 3 or higher; in Mississippi, it’s under a third. In the District of Columbia, more than half of exams score a 1.

More importantly, plenty of evidence showing that the AP does not really benefit. “AP courses provide little or no additional post-secondary benefit,” writes economist Kristin Klopfenstein and her colleagues and “Even a score of 5 on an A.P. test is no guarantee of a college grade of A in the same subject,” said Harvard’s Philip M. Sadler, who directs the science education department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics.

So might we hypothesize the following chain of reasoning behind the College Board campaign? (I know it sounds quite cynical):

American education is crumbling
Government should invest in improving education
Improving education means increasing college going and completion rates
To increase college readiness and success, you need “rigorous curriculum” and standards
And who provides that?

Readers who want to see the historical performance of US students can read my blog post at:

And here is Brian’s comment in response to Peter Kaufmann of the College Board:


Mr. Kauffmann, I can’t believe you rely on disproven talking points to make your points. I expect better from an employee of The College Board.

Here are some references for you to check out so you can update your talking points with actual, provable facts. It’s an academic tradition, you know:

1. “. . .American universities graduate three times as many qualified science and engineering students each year as can be absorbed in these fields. (Source: Science and Engineering Indicators, 2008)”

2. From GoodEducation:
“Back in 1964, American 13-year-olds took the First International Math Study and ended up ranking in 11th place. Considering that only 12 nations participated, including Australia, Finland, and Japan, our next-to-last performance was pretty abysmal. Other international tests American students have taken over the years have also never showed that we were in the top spot. It’s a myth that we’ve fallen from our glory days.”

3.The 2010 Brown Center Report on Education:

4. From the OECD Report from which your talking point comes from:
“The number of Americans earning college degrees has been steadily rising, from 11% of the population in 1970 to 30% in 2010. Younger Americans, however, are not keeping pace with their peers in other developed countries, so among 34 countries in the OECD report, we have fallen to 15th place in the percentage of 25 to 34 year olds with college degrees.”

You seem to have left out the part about it being the 23-34 year-old cohort that is slipping behind. Analysis of the report also states that one of the probably causes of the lag is that the price of a college education in the US is higher than anywhere else in the world and is subsidized to a far lesser degree probably due to the low to median tax rate in the US compared to the rest of the world.

Also, you neglect to mention the good news from the same report:

From SV[e]F:
“The 500-page OECD report is a treasure trove (overused term, but true in this case) of amazing statistics and many of them place the U.S. in good standing.

– 99% of our K-12 teachers meet state qualifications.
– Even though classroom instruction time has taken a hit, we still exceed the OECD average at 1,068 hours for high school.
– Ditto for class size; it’s increasing but remains lower that most other nations.
– Despite the high price tag for a college degree, graduates more than make up for it in future earnings and lower unemployment rates.
– The unemployment rate for high school drop outs is 15.8%, but for college graduates it drops to 4.9%.
– College graduates earn about 87% more over their lifetime than high school graduates who don’t go on to college.

The facts seem to negate the panic your advertisement and your quote of talking points invites.

The problem, as it always has been, is poverty, lack of governmental support through tax dollars, austerity budgets, and lack of political will . I wonder if The College Board plans on addressing these issues through your PR campaign?