College Board invalidates high school advanced placement test results

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School students will have the option to retake AP tests with invalid results.
File photo by Susan Safford

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School students will have the option to retake AP tests with invalid results.

Martha’s Vineyard students must now choose whether to retake the exams.

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) students must retake advanced placement (AP) exams based on an allegation that improper seating during the testing could have led to cheating. Despite appeals by Island school officials that there were no improprieties during the exam, the state’s College Board invalidated the results of tests taken this spring and will require a retest by Island students.

Acting MVRHS principal Matt D’Andrea sent a letter to parents Wednesday, notifying them that students would need to re-take AP exams in U.S. History, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, and World History.

“Based on an anonymous allegation of testing impropriety to Educational Testing Service, it was determined that during the AP testing there was a violation of one of the seating protocols for test security,” Mr. D’Andrea explained in his letter. “Consequently, the College Board has invalidated the results of the exam. The school has aggressively appealed this decision, arguing that despite the one oversight, the testing environment was secure and that test results are valid. Nevertheless, the appeal was denied.”

To help students prepare for retaking the exams, Mr. D’Andrea said the high school has arranged two-hour study sessions for them to review material with the course instructors the week before the retests, which will be conducted at MVRHS.

“Please be advised that all AP test retakes are optional,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “If your child chooses to not take the exam, your child’s AP designation with final grade will still be on his/her transcript, and the initial fee will be refunded.”

Mr. D’Andrea apologized for the error on the school’s part and for the frustration and inconvenience the College Board’s decision creates for students.

“I appreciate how hard these students have worked to prepare for the exam, and we will be sure that the retake, along with any future exams, will be successfully coordinated following all of the College Board’s testing protocols,” his letter stated. “Please accept my sincere apology for this error, as I am aware of the effect that this decision has on your family.”

The College Board is a not-for-profit organization made up of more than 6,000 educational institutions worldwide, according to the College Board website. It helps students prepare for transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and success, including the SAT exam and Advanced Placement Program.

The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program enables willing and academically prepared students to pursue college-level studies, while in high school. Many four-year colleges and universities, but not all, grant students college credit or allow them advanced placement in a higher course level, based on their successful AP exam scores.

The College Board contracts the Educational Testing Service, also a non-profit organization, to administer the Advanced Placement Program.

For some students, the retesting will be more than an inconvenience. In an email to The Times Friday, Louis de Geofroy of West Tisbury described the complications.

“In my daughter’s case, she will be out of the country,” Mr. de Geofroy said. “The AP exam is a test for college credit and the culmination of a year’s worth of study. This is a huge problem even for students who will be able to take the scheduled retest because they will have to revisit all the material in the entire course to prep again.”

Mr. de Geofroy also questioned the College Board’s decision, based on the testing experiences his two daughters have described to him.

“Both my older daughter, in college, and the one who took the test this year say that the seating plan required by the testing service is actually worse as far as cheating goes. Someone needs to be held accountable and perhaps enough bad press would cause the testing agency to reconsider.”

Those who wish to retake the exams must call Ruda Stone, administrative assistant to the principal, at 508-693-1033, ext. 126, or email her at rstone@mvyps.org by July 3, according to Mr. D’Andrea.

The study sessions will be held between July 7 and 10, from 9 to 11 am as follows: World History, July 7, Room 415; U.S. History, July 8, Room 102; English Literature and Composition, July 9, Room 515; and English Language and Composition, July 10, Room 413.

Exam retakes are scheduled on July 14-17 from 8 am to noon in the high school’s library conference room as follows: World History, July 14; U.S. History, July 15; English Literature and Composition, July 16; and English Language and Composition, July 17.