College & Workforce Readiness

Hundreds of California Students Must Retake AP Exams

By Catherine Gewertz — July 05, 2017 2 min read
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More than 500 California high school students will have to retake Advanced Placement tests if they want a shot at college credit, because their school didn’t abide by the required seating arrangement in the exam room.

The College Board and the Educational Testing Service, which administers AP exams, announced Friday that they will invalidate the scores of 847 tests taken in May by 540 students at Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego.

Students will have the chance to retake the tests in July or August. Some will have to cancel scheduled vacations and other planned activities to do so, according to local media reports.

Scripps Ranch High School leaders shared the news in a letter to parents Friday night, noting that they “strongly disagreed” with the companies’ decision to invalidate the scores.

No one is alleging that students cheated on the test. But students were sitting too close to one another when they took the exams, in violation of a two-year-old seating-arrangement policy that is meant to ensure test security, College Board officials said.

Students are supposed to sit at eight-foot-long tables without any partitions, but at Scripps Ranch, they were sitting at six-foot-long tables with partitions, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Leaders in the San Diego Unified School District criticized the companies’ decision to invalidate the test scores. Board member Kevin Besier, who represents the neighborhood that includes Scripps Ranch, told the Union-Tribune that while he’s disappointed seating rules weren’t followed, he thinks invalidating the scores is an “overreaction.”

The College Board defended the decision. “Seating rules are in place to ensure that no students can gain an unfair advantage over other students,” company spokeswoman Jaslee Carayol said in a statement.

“This difficult decision is not an indication of wrongdoing on the part of Scripps Ranch students. The decision was made to ensure every AP student has an equal opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.”

Eight teachers have agreed to return to school to teach refresher courses for the students before they have to take the tests again. The school has also decided to open its library at set times over the summer to let students check out test-review books.

The College Board said it understands the difficulty of “an unfortunate situation,” and pledged to work with the school to make it as easy as possible for students.

Scripps Ranch’s vice-principal told the Union-Tribune that 700 to 800 students took AP exams, but not all were in seating arrangements that violated testing protocols.

District officials said they regret the lapse in established procedure, and are conducting an internal review of AP testing procedures at its high schools. A new test proctor will be assigned to Scripps Ranch High, they said.

College Board officials said problems with seating arrangements have happened before, but occur “very infrequently.”

Photo: Getty Images

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.