The Secret Behind the Success of College Board

Jay Park, Staff Writer

  Inside a library, a group of four students sit huddled around a European history textbook, with several different Advanced Placement study guides propped up in front of them. They are immersed into the books, sifting through each page while highlighting and making notes. Occasionally a person will bring up a question and the others will discuss it. With the AP exams coming up soon, these students have come together to prepare for the rigorous test that will determine their comprehension of a subject.

  These students continue to study diligently, for mastering every aspect of this college-level exam is the key to a bright future, all in the thanks to the non-profit education corporation, the College Board.

  Since it changed its president in 1999, Collegeboard has become a revered hallmark of education. It is the sole authority of the nation’s tests, nation’s academic resources, and creates universally equal opportunities for every student. Fortunately, I was given an invitation to tour the highly prestigious organization and had a chance to admire the brilliance behind it all.

  I was flown to a remote island on one of their gold-plated private jets. The massive compound rivaled the White House. Caretakers tended their massive garden, and exotic animals roamed freely on its grounds.

  At the gate I met Steve Mogul, a senior staff member who would guide me. As we walked through the arched entrance, the sight astounded me. Light flooded every corner. The entrance hall itself was completely marble. Intricate designs covered the floor and the ceiling was painted with Greco-Roman art. At the center of the hall was a statue of a giant golden acorn.

  “This acorn, our logo, represents  our unrelenting devotion to improving education of all the students in the United States.” Mogul commented, as he saluted the statue. “We pay respect to this monument every day; it is very important to us.”

  He then led me up a flight of stairs, and all the while I was glancing at the strange sights: a couple of workers playing foosball, some ordering drinks from the bar, and some fast asleep on bean bags.

  Noticing my curious looks, Mogul answered, “It’s tough at work sometimes. I mean, we bear the responsibility of this nation’s education on our shoulders. Our company believes that the workers deserve to relax so they can perform at their peak performance.”

  The place Mogul took me to was the College Board Laboratory. I could only watch from the window as the scientists in lab coats and clipboards walked around.

  “This is confidential information, but we’ve been working on a research project to determine the best possible test-taking paper for our exams. So far we have used industrial-pulp paper, but we found that it didn’t fold nearly as well as other materials. We have spent several million dollars and over three years into this project, but we’re not worried; we know that the end result will be all worth it,” said Mogul. “Clearly, you have noticed the difference in test results when we calculated what the ideal space to leave on the page was. We had to print much more and had to raise the cost of the test, but it was only 50 dollars per test. We’re hopeful that this new change in materials will be just as small.”

  We moved on from the laboratory into the left wing of the compound, where we entered a dim, cool area.

  “This is our technological department. Here we have the state of the art machines responsible for processing and updating the student data, uploading them online as fast as possible. It surprises me how the tech guys manage to pull such a miracle every year. If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t be able to upload them by next year, much less July.”

  At the center of the room lay a single, decade-old computer with the 2004 Starter Edition of Windows XP. As the monitor blinked, I could hear the computer fan wheeze as it struggled to reach the Internet Explorer servers.

  “Moving on, this room next door is our company’s greatest asset. Its -unique- residents are responsible for grading the test. Thanks to our research, we found that bananas were exceptionally effective in training these personnels for work.”

  I was confused, what did he mean by that? While trying to comprehend his sentence, I was interrupted by loud noises, vaguely sounding like animals.

  Mogul just continued on, “The first department runs the tests through the Scantron and relays the score to the tech department. We changed our grading system to ease the process, as trying to assess our students with more than five numbers would be a hassle. While this is happening, the second carefully grades the free-response section of the test.”

  Once I entered the room, I found the answer. On one side of the room was a group of monkeys, crouching opposite from a dart board with five circles, ranging one through five. The monkeys would take turns shooting darts, and wherever it landed, the scientists would call out a name of a student and the respective grade the dart landed on, recording them on a clipboard. The monkeys would howl when they hit something, supposedly an act of celebration, and the scientist would feed them a banana. More often than not, the monkeys missed.

  In the corner of the room, monkeys lined the desks, hunching over students’ free response questions. Occasionally, they would manage to grip a pen in their fists and made wide, sweeping strokes on the essays. Presenting their illegible scribbles to the administrator, they would babble intelligently about their judgement of the student’s paper. The administrator would nod as he would write a grade, according to the monkey.

  Monkeys were exclusively in charge of grading tests.

  While I was still stricken in awe, Mogul looked at his watch and turned to me. “I’m afraid this is where we have to leave off today, as I am running late on time for my meeting. We hope you can appreciate our passion and dedication we pour into these tests every year.”

  I was escorted to the entrance, where we both saluted the acorn and parted ways. It is comforting to believe that the future generation will under the glorious and magnanimous wing of the College Board.