Parents may file lawsuits over AP Test debacle at Scripps Ranch High School

Meeting planned Wednesday night to discuss options

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Some parents of students at Scripps Ranch High School may file lawsuits over botched AP Tests at the school.

The San Diego Unified School District says almost 900 tests were administered improperly, and the College Board invalidated their scores. That means about 500 students will have to retake the tests to get credit for them.

"It's demoralizing," said Keren Stashower, whose son Noah will have to retake his AP psychology test.

"People need to step up and take responsibility for their mistakes," she told 10News, "not leave this up to the kids to put the energy into it."

In an email to 10News, several parents said they might file an injunction against the College Board to let the original test scores stand until an investigation is completed. They're also discussing a class-action lawsuit.

One parent, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote of the monetary aspect, saying: "My daughter has to retake the AP English test … the college she hopes to attend would have accepted it in place of her taking an English Class. At about $1,300 per credit, that's real money."

The school district says students taking the tests were sitting too close together and partitions were put in between them. Both of those things are against AP testing rules. While the College Board found no evidence of cheating, they still decided to invalidate the tests.

Parents feel it punishes the students for the school's mistake, and they also claim that the school knew the set up violated the rules.

One parent told 10News that the school had complained to the district for years about compliance issues, but SD Unified did nothing to solve it.

The parents will bring up these claims at a meeting at Marshall Middle School at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Taylor Williams, a Scripps Ranch High graduate affected by the testing ordeal, wrote the following open letter to the College Board:

Dear Mr. Scott Hill and to whom it may concern,

My name is Taylor Williams and I am a 2017 graduate of Scripps Ranch High School. Upon hearing about the invalidation of AP scores this year, I felt the burn of an unjust punishment. A verdict made due to an administrative error has unrightfully fallen on the backs of Scripps Ranch High students. But I am not writing to you to discuss the emotions surrounding this issue. I am writing to you to connect the dots of why this is an illogical and unnecessary punishment.

Here are the facts:
  • There is no evidence of cheating
  • Students were not in any way in control of his or her seating arrangement as it was required of them by the staff present
  • Students were not made aware of the guidelines of proper AP seating and therefore are not an accomplice to this mistake
  • 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 mistakes, such as this one
Prior to taking any AP exam, students were required to sign in acknowledgement and agreement with 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 in the Bulletin are the qualifications of what makes seating improper, nor does it include an explicit seating guideline. 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, to inform us of the rules, and to not put our scores at risk. When we read avoid improper seating and follow regulations provided by testing staff, that results in us trusting the staff to know what is required and impart proper regulations, so of course we were sitting alphabetically with partitions and a desk partner because in our minds we were following the rules. Considering that the bulletin does not include proper seating guidelines, that the testing staff did not make seating guidelines known to students, and that seating guidelines are not included within the exam materials on testing day, AP students were in no way made aware, and therefore in no way made responsible, for any seating violations.

I have been taught since the age of five to eighteen to follow rules put in place by schools and teachers. I have been taught since the age of five to eighteen 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.

College Board considers itself an advocate for students. It's 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 an entire 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 studying with facts fresh in his or her memory, a student from Scripps Ranch retakes the AP U.S. History exam approximately three months out of school with facts faded from his or her memory -- what makes these opportunities equal? Prevent any students from gaining an unfair advantage. One student is vacationing overseas, another student has moved to another state, another has a full time summer job, the last is at home with no immediate requirements and access to materials -- who has an unfair advantage?

College Board has been an aid to students' for years, guiding them towards future success and individual accomplishment. So please, choose to be the advocate you say you are. Choose to live up to your values of equality and opportunity. Choose to hear the students that have relied on you to get them to college in the most efficient way. Choose to hear them calling out for help. Choose to help the very people you say you care about. Help us by keeping our test results that we labored all year for valid. Please live up to your values and help us.

I understand that you have legal right to void AP scores, but this is not purely an issue of what is a lawful right, but what is morally upright. These procedures are a best practice that have resulted after years of change in test taking methodologies. What is found wrong today was acceptable in years past.

You must know that it is impossible to relearn anywhere from one to six advanced placement courses to the best of a student's ability within two weeks. You must know that we are put at an unfair disadvantage from students all around the country who took the same exams as scheduled. You must know that this affects hundreds of students' very real futures. You must know that you are negatively affecting 500 lives at such a young age.

College Board's mission is to prepare students for college. This verdict is only hindering us.

Instead of punishing last year's students who have worked honestly and diligently, instead, prepare next year's students and administration to fulfill the AP guidelines the school previously failed to follow. Instead of punishing the past, prepare for the future. This is exactly what College Board is about: preparing for the future.

We beg you to reconsider. Would you rather have the public image of College Board be one of compassion for students or one of indifference and cruelty towards the very people you proclaim to help?

There are more than 500 dedicated, sacrificial human beings on the line who have submitted a year of intensive learning only to have it all wiped blank, deemed worthless and void because of a superficial error that is not their fault.

Whose head will roll? These students, or the apathetic staff who knew better yet put us at risk after years of preaching honesty and rule following? For who is more responsible? A child found with stolen bread or the father who placed it in his hands? May I remind you that there is no evidence of foul play; there is no evidence of cheating. We are honest students. We do not take unfair advantages through cheating. We have integrity -- so please, live up to yours.

Reconsider. Help us.

Very Respectfully,
Taylor Williams
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