Raising Awareness of Late AP Testing by Ashlee Witte
AP students pressed for time after multiple snow cancellations could benefit from intervention on testing dates on behalf of the College Board.
Standardized testing is notorious for its strict adherence to sometimes nonsensical rules and AP exams are no exception. In order to ensure test security, the testing dates are identical for all participating schools across the nation. This sounds reasonable enough but fails to account for certain unforeseen variables, most notably, the weather.
The rules are written with the intent of creating an environment where all students have an equal chance of success. Administering exams on the same day reduces the chance of cheating and gives students the same amount of time to prepare, at least theoretically. What the College Board does not plan for is the occurrence of school cancellations due to weather, something that puts northern states at a greater disadvantage.
This year, a polar vortex swept across the northeastern part of the country, bringing record low temperatures and multiple closings. Other minor storms causing hazardous road conditions followed in the subsequent months, leaving Snider with a grand total of seven cancellations due to inclement weather. Only two of these days were covered by a scheduled makeup before the start of AP exams, leaving a total of five lost days.
“The biggest problem is that all the time we miss, we make up after tests. Every snow day is one less day to prepare for the test,” AP chemistry and physics teacher Mr. Joseph Wilhelm said.
A few days off here and there may seem negligible to most of the school population, but to AP teachers and their students, these days are often cause for concern. Many AP teachers have each day leading up to the exams planned out months in advance, meticulously keeping records of their progress in past years for comparison. Even one lost day of instruction can throw off the schedule.
“The College Board does not delay test dates because of our snow days so we have less time to learn the same material,” AP government and economics teacher Mr. Evan Grotemat said, echoing the concerns of Mr. Wilhelm.
Snow days leave AP teachers with limited options. Sometimes this means cutting class discussions. Other times teachers put the onus of makeup work on students who are usually already over-burdened with other classes, work and extracurricular activities. Technology can make the process easier, allowing teachers to post notes, links and assignments online on cancellation days, but it is still no substitute to in-class learning.
“You have to compact more information in a shorter amount of time, something the rest of the country does not have to do,” AP U.S. history teacher Mrs.Tiffany Hanley said.
The past couple of years have boasted relatively mild winters, but 2014 conditions were similar in intensity to what the nation has experienced so far in 2019. In the wake of those closings, Bellmont High School in Decatur, Indiana, made an appeal for late testing.
According to the Bellmont school newspaper, when they applied for late testing, they were told they had to have at least five closings and that the makeups had to be scheduled after the AP tests had already passed. The school was prepared to organize fundraisers to raise money for the late fee, but because they met the requirements, they were given free late testing.
The College Board website states that a school closing is a valid reason to receive late testing. Late testing due to a non-emergency closing is subject to a $45 fee per student, while late testing due to a closing resulting from an election, national holiday or natural disaster is free. The site does not specify whether the closing must happen on or prior to the testing date, but it is implied that it only applies to closings on the day testing is to take place because otherwise the singular closing listed on the site would contradict the five-day rule given to Bellmont.
Regardless, the information addressing closings is relatively vague. It seems an odd choice on the part of the College Board to outline what to do in the event of a strike or labor conflict, but to relegate the occurrence of multiple snow cancellations to an “exceptional circumstance.” It raises the question of whether the five-day rule imposed on Bellmont was arbitrary or a requirement that has been imposed in the past, and if it is the latter, why the College Board does not have it listed under the late-testing policies page.
Because the policy for requesting late testing in the event of several snow cancellations is not listed with the other late testing requirements, it is up to the schools to contact the College Board and inquire if they think they might qualify, but because the policy is not common knowledge, most schools would have no reason to think they might qualify.
When dealing with something as common and unpredictable as hazardous weather, it makes sense to not only have a contingency plan, but to make that plan known to all participating schools. If the College Board is dedicated to promoting equal opportunity, then ensuring all students have the same amount of time to prepare should be one of their standards, even if that means being flexible with adjustments to the schedule after a bout of unforeseen closings.
Surely, if the College Board can be accommodating to Bellmont, they can extend that courtesy to any other schools that find themselves in a similar predicament.