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Introducing the College Board Foundation

Nearly two years after the pandemic upended education, College Board creates a new capability aimed at forging partnerships to address some of the most urgent issues in education

Dwana Franklin-Davis knows the potential of a career in technology. She also knows the challenges young women face.

After working nearly 14 years at Mastercard and eventually becoming vice president in charge of technology operations, she left in 2019 to became CEO of Reboot Representation. The nonprofit works with some of the world’s largest tech firms to ensure more Black, Latina, and Native American women enter the tech industry. It’s urgent work—about 4% of computer science graduates are women of color—and Franklin-Davis recognizes Reboot can’t go it alone. “We have this amazing ability to bring everyone to the table to share and grow,” Franklin-Davis told The Elective in June. “None of these organizations should start from zero. We should learn from each other collectively to improve the whole space.”

During the pandemic, the value of collaboration became clearer to communities and organizations around the world. That includes College Board, which today announced the creation of the College Board Foundation to forge such relationships.

Over the last two years, schools and institutions met exceptional challenges with remarkable energy and imagination. The Foundation harnesses that ingenuity through an innovative collaboration of College Board staff, capabilities, and resources. Working with partners who share an optimistic view of education’s power to adapt in a fast-changing world, the Foundation aims to accelerate measurable progress on some of the biggest challenges highlighted by the pandemic.

Teacher wipes off a laptop computer while sitting on a chair with 20 other laptops open and laid out on the floor

John Moore/Getty Images

Elaine Jencarelli prepares Chromebooks for the start of school at Newfield Elementary School in Stamford, Connecticut, in August 2020. The pandemic created an urgent need for devices like Chromebooks and tablets to ensure students could learn remotely.

Franklin-Davis, appropriately, is one of those the Foundation is learning from. After speaking with The Elective, the conversation continued about how she and College Board can work together to “move the needle for girls and women in computing.” It was the Foundation approach in action—and the start of a relationship to address a systemic issue in education that will, ideally, draw on and strengthen both College Board and Reboot Representation.

The roots of such cooperation—and the Foundation itself—are in the early days of the pandemic and College Board’s response to it.

In Spring 2020, as schools across the country closed, College Board deployed resources in creative new ways to tackle the digital divide, keep students on track for college, and address newly urgent concerns around career and education opportunities. The Advanced Placement program shifted to a digital format, ensuring millions of students could still have a chance to earn college credit. Virtual college fairs and webinars connected tens of thousands of kids and teachers to higher ed information and opportunities. College Board also distributed thousands of devices and partnered with T-Mobile, as well as Amazon, Google, and the Walton Foundation, to distribute Wi-Fi hotspots to ensure students could continue learning.

Grid of six headshot photos, organized three by two

(clockwise from top left) Dwana Franklin-Davis/LinkedIn, Chiefs for Change, courtesy T-Mobile, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Baltimore City Public Schools, Technology Association of Grantmakers

Conversations with (clockwise from top left) Dwana Franklin-Davis, Mike Magee, Kiesha Taylor, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Sonja Santelises, and Larry Irving have all been featured on The Elective have become building blocks for future collaborations.

Today, College Board is listening to and assisting other groups. The goal: to address some of the nation’s deepest-rooted inequities and ensure every student has a promising path beyond high school and a full, confident place in America’s civic life. And as the nation and world emerges from the pandemic, the Foundation will continue and build on those efforts.

“We have a hundred-year history of guiding students on their path to college, and that remains our central mission,” says Stefanie Sanford the College Board’s chief of global policy and external relations. “But we’ve seen that our tools and resources can also help tackle a broader set of problems around career preparation, access to computer science education, and getting students ready for digital citizenship in a fast-moving world.”

Sanford will lead the Foundation as president in close partnership with fellow co-chairs College Board Senior Vice President for College and Career Access Steve Bumbaugh and College Board Chief Financial Officer Daniela Berger-Pollack.

“We believe deeply that every student deserves an opportunity for success in college,” Bumbaugh says. “We also know there’s a lot more we can offer when it comes to guidance around careers and credentials.”

That work has already begun on this website. The Elective, College Board’s digital education magazine, launched in March 2020 to highlight positive, solutions-oriented stories and conversations with students, teachers, and policymakers making progress on deep-seated challenges. In that time, it has held an extended discussion about the digital divide and representation in computer science through interviews with Internet Hall-of-Famer Larry Irving, Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee, and Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, among others.

Two screenshots overlaid atop one another from CNN, in the back, and The Dispatch, in the foreground, The Dispatch

After speaking with Stefanie Sanford for The Elective, Larry Irving and Michael Powell collaborated with her on op-eds to continue the conversation and work around closing the digital divide and improving civics education.

The Foundation builds on these conversations. And by integrating College Board research, expertise, and coalition building, it creates a platform for collaboration—with partners inside College Board and out—that forges new opportunities to improve the realities for America’s students.

“I was so moved by how people across College Board pulled together to support students during this incredibly hard time,” Berger-Pollack says. “Building on that energy, we hope the College Board Foundation will create even more ways for staff to give, volunteer, and support students and their communities.”

The pandemic forced everyone—students and educators, families and communities, schools and institutions—to meet new challenges and confront long-standing inequalities. And many did it with a renewed sense of common purpose and rekindled spirit of collaboration. Suddenly there were a lot of people at the table, coming up with new ideas and pushing things in new directions.

Keeping them all talking—indeed, ensuring more join the effort to improve the lives of America's students—is the central mission of the Foundation.

“We want to build a community of people who believe that measurable progress is not only possible, it is urgent,” Sanford says. “As we emerge from the pandemic, we have the opportunity—and the duty—to turn insights and commitments into concrete, meaningful outcomes for America’s young people.”