San Diego

‘Nuclear Option': 500 Students at Scripps Ranch High School Must Retake AP Exams, SDUSD Officials Say

A petition asking the College Board to reconsider voiding the students' test scores has gathered more than 1,800 signatures

About 500 students will have to retake their Advanced Placement (AP) exams due to errors involved in the administration of the test, officials with the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) said Friday.

Several AP exams taken at Scripps Ranch High School have been declared void because the chairs in which the students were seated during the testing session were placed too close together in the exam room.

A petition requesting that the College Board reconsider voiding the test scores for the students has gathered more than 1,800 signatures.

The SDUSD Board Vice President for District B, Kevin Beiser, said he is disappointed in the board's decision to void the students' AP exams.

"In my opinion, they should have administered, maybe a lesser penalty, such as a sanction. Instead of going to what some people are calling the nuclear option," said Beiser.

There is no evidence of cheating, according to SDUSD. The problem was purely a breach of seating protocol.

The College Board and its test administrator, Educational Testing Service (ETS), notified school officials that the test results had been invalidated on Wednesday.

"I'm very disappointed the proper protocols were not followed at this site for some AP tests," said Beiser. "I'm equally disappointed the College Board and ETS test company is invalidating the scores, which I think is an overreaction as there is no evidence of student cheating."

The investigation began when the College Board received a seating chart after the AP exams were conducted.

Based on the investigation, the students were seated too closely together with partitions placed between their desks. The College Board's seating rules prohibit any kind of partitions.

According to the College Board, those seating rules are in place to make sure no student gains an unfair advantage.

SDUSD officials say they strongly disagree with the decision to void the students' AP exams, but legally, the agency has a right to invalidate the test scores.

Scripps Ranch High School consulted their legal department and decided not to take legal action upon realizing that similar efforts by districts have previously failed in the courts, said Beiser.

The school will do everything in its power to minimize the impact on students, he added. 

One resident of Scripps Ranch, Dr. Carole Banka, helped start the Advanced Placement program in science when her daughter attended the school. She says this could really impact a college freshman's education.

"I'm really shocked that whoever was administering these tests would allow such a mistake to happen," said Banka. "If they're going into a premed program or any program headed for professional or graduate school, it could really slow down their progression through college if they're unable to make this up."

The void AP exams could have big consequences for students who aren't staying in San Diego this summer and won't be available to retake the exams. It's especially significant for seniors who already planned their first semester of college feeling confident with their prior test performance.

"The dedication of our teachers at Scripps Ranch High School is unparalleled as they have all volunteered to come in and teach review classes to help the students prepare for the free retest opportunities we will provide in July and then again in August," said Beiser.

Parents and students will be able to visit the Scripps Ranch Falcons' website and click on the AP Free Retest link at the top for further information about free review opportunities and to sign up for retesting.

Students who choose not to retake the test will have their fees refunded, according to SDUSD.

"We want to stress again that the students of Scripps Ranch have not done anything wrong to precipitate this decision by the College Board and ETS," said SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten. "On behalf of Scripps Ranch High School and all of San Diego Unified, we deeply regret the fact established procedures were not followed in this instance."

"We have accepted responsibility for that fact and are conducting an internal review of all AP test taking procedures at other high schools," she added.

Marten said more changes are coming; the annual training for proctors that is currently optional will now be a mandatory requirement. A new testing proctor has also been assigned to the Scripps Ranch High School community.

Students will have several opportunities to take make-up exams, with the first retest dates set for July 17 through July 20. The next opportunity will be in August.

A parent and student forum is planned at Marshall Middle School on July 5 at 6 p.m. to discuss this incident further.

School officials said students will not receive their scores from the invalidated AP exams. Scores from the makeup exams should be available within weeks following the exams, in time to send to colleges.

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