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Published in Print: November 10, 1999, as Reporter's Notebook

Reporter's Notebook

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Caperton Outlines Expansive Vision for College Board

Before Gaston Caperton leaves his new position at the College Board, every high school in America will include Advanced Placement courses in its curriculum, and a vast Internet site will offer services to thousands of new members.

Gaston Caperton

That's the vision for the next decade that the president of the 99-year-old nonprofit organization unveiled during the College Board's annual conference in San Diego Oct. 26 through Oct. 30.

Some 1,600 counselors and administrators from high schools and colleges across the country convened to discuss issues surrounding equity in, and access to, higher education.

"Every high school in America should have ap courses available," Mr. Caperton, the former West Virginia governor who began his tenure at the College Board last summer, said in an interview after the conference. "We want to expand our membership significantly," he added. "We want a larger voice in public policy, and that will allow us to connect to more and more people."

Many of those connections will be made through the Internet and the organization's first for-profit World Wide Web site, he said. ("College Board Plans First Foray Into For-Profit World," Oct. 6, 1999.)

Currently, about 60 percent of the nation's high schools offer ap courses designed by the College Board, Mr. Caperton said.

The board also sponsors the sat, the test taken by about 2.2 million high school students annually as part of the college admissions process, along with more than 40 other products ranging from computer management systems for guidance counselors to college essay evaluations for high school students.

"Our strategy is to really build on core components like the ap and sat and the Pacesetter [programs] that make up the College Board system," Mr. Caperton said. The Pacesetter program offers standards, curriculum, and assessment systems for comprehensive school reform.

It is important too, he said, to broaden the College Board's membership. A plan for "associate memberships" is in the works; educators who teach ap courses and those who grade the exams will be recruited. The New York City-based organization now has about 3,800 members, Mr. Caperton said.

The organization is on track to launch this spring, Mr. Caperton added. The Web site, a for-profit subsidiary of the board, will offer free and low-cost tutoring for ap and sat tests, and information on college selection and financial aid, he said. The venture will be financed with advertising and will compete with similar sites run by the Princeton Review and Kaplan Educational Centers.

"We'll be able to reach millions of people through this," Mr. Caperton said.

But Patricia J. Martin, a member of the College Board's board of trustees and a program director at the Washington-based Education Trust, said in an interview that persuading poor urban schools to add ap courses to their curricula and locating good teachers to teach them will be difficult.

Panelists in one of the more provocative sessions at the San Diego conference discussed the success of programs designed to help at-risk high school students achieve and pursue college.

"Yes, these programs work, but under certain conditions for certain kids," said Patricia Gandara, an associate professor of education at the University of California, Davis, who is studying the effectiveness of such programs. She served on a panel of speakers at the session.

Those that work best involve a caring adult who works with a student for several years, Ms. Gandara said. Such programs nurture a supportive peer group for the student, set tough standards, and provide scholarship money for future endeavors.

Most intervention programs, however, are simply feel-good initiatives that fail to provide those essential ingredients and don't make lasting impressions on large groups of students, she contended. Intervention programs rarely collect data on the students they serve, and therefore officials cannot say whether their own projects are working, Ms. Gandara added.

In addition, administrators often do not communicate with one another, a failing that leads to the duplication of services, said Watson S. Swail, an associate director of policy analysis for the College Board.

—Julie Blair

Vol. 19, Issue 11, Page 13

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