School & District Management

Student Cheating at Issue as College Board Rolls Out Online AP Exams

By Gabrielle Wanneh — May 12, 2020 3 min read
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Just before the College Board rolled out its first ever remote administration of Advanced Placement subject-matter tests, accusations of student cheating were already rising up.

Trevor Packer, the head of Advanced Placement instruction for the College Board, tweeted Sunday that AP test registrations have been cancelled for a ring of students who were intending to cheat on the exams, which are taking place from Monday, May 11, to Friday, May 22. The organization is currently investigating other potential cases.

The College Board stated that it cannot provide further details regarding this or any specific incident in relation to cheating. According to Jerome White, the board’s director of media relations and external communications, what can be said is that when substantial evidence is presented that students have attempted to cheat, such as soliciting someone else to take their exam or sharing exam content through social media, the cancellation of the student’s AP test registration or an invalidation of their scores is warranted.

Upon further investigation, the board could undertake further actions, including notifying college admissions offices about the student’s misconduct or banning the student from any future SAT or AP exams.

“It’s not worth the risk of having your name reported to college admissions offices.” Packer warned in his tweet.

Packer’s tweet was met with a mix of questions, comments, and concerns. Commenters included students and educators who were looking to better understand what materials are and are not allowed to be used during the AP exams.

Others expressed uncertainty on how a truly “fair testing environment’’ can exist as students take tests from their home computers, a worry voiced by many ever since the College Board announced that the AP exams would be moved online.

“It was easily foreseeable that an online test that was put together in four weeks would be susceptible to cheating,” said Akil Bello, the senior director of advocacy and advancement for the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, an advocacy group. “In no world were these problems not going to occur—the only question was ‘How large was the scale going to be?’”

Bello, along with several educators and other officials in the realm of college admissions, wrote an open letter to the College Board in April addressing their concerns about the equitability of at-home, online AP testing. “We recognize the extraordinary situation that the College Board is in... However, it appears as if the College Board opted for security protocols and its own convenience over equity,” the letter read.

“Students are in a tough position, and to have been working towards a specific thing for so long and to have that be disrupted is angst-inducing,” Bello said. “So it’s incumbent upon those in power to ensure that disruptions are minimal and impact the least those in the worst position, and I don’t think the College Board has done that.” Bello added.

Bello said he felt that the College Board had taken a somewhat unprecedented step of “convicting students of precrime” in regard to the cheating accusations, and that their concern over what will happen to students who are caught cheating or planning to cheat seems to outweigh their concerns for fair and equitable testing.

Jill Yoshikawa, an advisor for the education consulting firm Creative Marbles Consultancy, shared similar sentiments about the equity and security issues of online AP testing in a letter she wrote to the College Board in March.

“Given the increased probability that students may choose to cheat, how will the integrity of those who do not cheat be protected?” she wrote.

Yoshikawa felt that Packer’s tweet came across as accusatory towards students, many of whom are already stressed out from the expedited switch to online learning and preparations for a shorter, newly formatted exam.

“What we’re not looking at is why are these young minds thinking that their only ability to do well on these tests is to cheat?” Yoshikawa said. “We’re sort of accusing them without giving them any evidence. They’re having fingers pointed at them and they don’t even really know why.”

Photo: iStock/Getty Images Plus

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.


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