College Board Sets Sights On Closing 'Digital Divide'
The century-old College Board is putting its prestige behind the budding movement to bridge the "digital divide" separating poor and better-off students, board officials announced last week.
The group plans to form a national coalition of educators, civil rights leaders, technology executives, and elected officials to address the fact that children from low-income families are less likely than their more affluent peers to have computers and Internet access at home.
"The digital divide is wrong, unfair, and unjust, and something we have to do something about—and the College Board should be a vehicle to do that," Gaston Caperton, the group's president, said in an interview last week. "Our goal is to get every kid connected to the Internet in the next five years."
As the sponsor of the SAT and the Advanced Placement tests, which give it a gatekeeper role for high school students who wish to enter college, the New York City-based board has clout in governmental and academic circles.
'Right Thing To Do'
Board officials said the group was still formulating plans for the new coalition and sending out letters to potential partners. The officials said they expected to tap the expertise of high-technology companies and might join with other initiatives on closing the digital divide. The Case Foundation and AT&T Corp. are among several organizations that have launched similar efforts in recent months. ("Philanthropic Effort Aims To Help Close 'Digital Divide'," Nov. 17, 1999.)
Mr. Caperton, who took charge at the College Board last July, said he is convinced the educational benefits of technology can be brought to children of all income levels by his experience as the governor of West Virginia from 1989 to 1997. During that time, the state formed partnerships with corporations that have put Internet connections, computers, and educational software in nearly every school.
The College Board needed to tackle the digital-divide issue because "it's the right thing to do," Mr. Caperton said. He added that the effort would also make it easier for students to access the board's World Wide Web site, www.collegeboard.org, which offers activities to help students prepare for many of its tests.
"We want to be sure programs we offer will be available for students at all schools and all income levels," he said.
Next fall, the group plans to launch a commercial Web site—www.collegeboard.com—that will have more extensive support for test-takers, Mr. Caperton noted.
Vol. 19, Issue 21, Page 3