Gaston Caperton on the Achievement Gap

Gaston Caperton, a former two-term governor of West Virginia, is the eighth president of the College Board, a not-for-profit membership association founded in 1900 that consists of 5,000 of the nation's leading schools, colleges, and universities. Among its best-known programs are the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) and the SAT®.

Since his appointment in 1999, Caperton has transformed the College Board into a resolutely mission-driven, values-oriented organization that takes bold steps to connect greater numbers of students to college success and opportunity while raising educational standards. In his successful effort to expand equity within programs that foster academic excellence, he has more than doubled the size of the College Board's staff, modernized its management structure, and established, the nation's predominant comprehensive Web site serving nearly 4 million students a year as they plan their paths to college.

  • Transcript


Question: What will it take to extend adequate educational opportunities to all American students?

Caperton:    Excellence is found almost everywhere, but I think we have a great number of students who are not maximizing their potential, they’re not in an atmosphere that’s asking them to maximize their potential.  There isn’t a teacher or a leader or they’re not getting at home the leadership they need to maximize their potential.  I think that we’re not engaging students as we should.  They don’t, they’re a little bored in school.  They live in an electronic age.  They have so much more going around than just what’s in the classroom.  We aren’t using our capabilities of technology that we should be in these classes.  Now, my wife is an expert in the use of technology in education, and in West Virginia now, she has, I think, 14 schools where she’s teaching students to program computers using Flash, and these are not students that are computer literate.  These are going into a school where they’ve never even much had much connection, and the way these kids learned to work in teams, the energy that they show, the interest they show, I think that we’ve got to make, we’ve got to better engage students in the learning process, and this engagement that you would see in the schools that she’s working at, it’s quite remarkable, and how they work in teams.  So, I think one of the most important things is we’ve got to focus more and more on engaging students.  Now, one of the things that you would know about me was that I’m dyslexic, so school was quite hard for me when I was young.  I couldn’t read in the 4th grade, and it wasn’t really… and I worked hard and I learned to read, and I learned to deal with the fact that I was dyslexic.  But it wasn’t until the 11th grade, when I had a teacher, and I’ll never forget his name, named Mr. [Ravenel], who was an English teacher and one of the most engaging people I’d ever been in the classroom, certainly the most engaging, and Shakespeare cam alive.  T.S. Eliot came alive.  All of the more modern authors became alive in my life, and from that day on, I always have a book.  I’m always reading.  And that was when I was engaged in learning, and the fact that I’ve always been a good learner wasn’t because I was gifted with some sort of, some kind of early intelligence.  I think it was really because I was engaged and inspired by a great teacher, and we’ve got to really work more and more on that, and I don't think we can engage students today without learning better ways to use today’s technology and today’s way to communicate with students and using the internet and all that’s available to students.  We need to use that much, much more.