In Response to the AP Fiasco

We wanted to hear from students affected by the Scripps Ranch High School AP testing scandal. So we asked our high school writer Taylor Williams, now a graduate, to share her thoughts.

Upon hearing about the invalidation of AP scores, I felt the burn of an unjust punishment. A verdict made due to an administrative error has unjustly fallen on students. But I am not writing this to discuss the emotions surrounding this issue. I am writing to connect the dots of why this is an illogical and unnecessary punishment. Here are the facts:

  • There is no evidence of cheating by students whose tests were invalidated.
  • Students were not in control of their seating arrangement as it was required of them by the staff.
  • Students were not made aware of the guidelines of proper AP seating and, therefore, were not an accomplice to this wrongdoing.
  • Such seating arrangements—alphabetical, partitions, desk partners—have been standard at SRHS in past years and have gone without punishment.
  • Proctors were not required to take any form of test administration training, increasing the likelihood of administrative issues.

Prior to taking any AP exam, students are required to sign an agreement from the College Board’s Bulletin for AP Students and Parents 2016-17, which states College Board’s right to cancel scores due to “testing irregularities.” Listed in the Bulletin as a testing irregularity is “improper seating” (Bulletin 6), but not listed are the qualifications of what makes seating improper, nor does it include an explicit seating guide. This is not to say that our school’s seating arrangement was proper, but that the students were unaware of any seating violations.

Also listed in the Bulletin as prohibited is the “[failure] to follow any of the exam administration regulations discussed in this bulletin, provided by testing staff, or specified in any exam materials” (Bulletin 6). AP students trust administration to know the rules and not put our scores at risk. We assume the staff knows what is required, so, of course, we were sitting alphabetically with partitions and a desk partner because, in our minds, we were following the rules.

I have been taught since the age of 5 to follow rules put in place by schools and teachers. I have been taught since the age of 5 when in a formal school setting to sit alphabetically. The irony of being punished for doing just that at the end of my K–12 career is not lost on me.

The College Board considers itself an advocate for students. Its mission is to provide fair and equal opportunity for success and a smooth transition to college and higher education. To quote the AP Coordinator’s Manual for 2016-17: “It is only through a commitment to equitable preparation and access that true equity and excellence can be achieved […] The policies and procedures have been developed to afford all students equivalent opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge on exam day and prevent any students from gaining an unfair advantage” (AP 1-15).

Equitable preparation. Two weeks to relearn a year of advanced courses. Afford all students equivalent opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge. A student from Poway takes the AP U.S. History exam as scheduled after a year of intense study with facts fresh in his or her mind. A student from Scripps retakes the AP U.S. History exam approximately three months out of school with facts faded from his or her memory—what makes these equal?

Prevent any students from gaining an unfair advantage. One student is vacationing overseas, another has moved to another state, another has a full-time job, the last is at home with no access to materials—who has an unfair advantage?

I understand that the College Board has the legal right to void AP scores, but this is not purely an issue of what is lawfully right but what is morally upright.

Whose heads will roll? These students or the apathetic staff who knew better yet put us at risk after years of preaching honesty and rule following? Who is more responsible? A child found with stolen bread or the father who placed it in his hands? May I remind them that there is no evidence of cheating by these students. We have integrity—so please, College Board, we ask you to live up to yours.

Taylor Williams, SRHS Class of 2017


Works cited:

AP Coordinator’s Manual 2016-17 (2016): 1-140. College Board. Web. 3 July 2017.

Bulletin for AP Students and Parents 2016-17 (2016): 1-12. College Board. Web. 3 July 2017.