AP Tests put a strain on families during global crisis

Opinion

Sitting in the inboxes of AP students at the very beginning of quarantine was an email from the College Board. According to the College Board, students across the country had been surveyed, and results suggested AP tests should still be offered despite the swiftly spreading pandemic. Most students probably scratched their heads when reading this—whomever had been surveyed isn’t anybody I know. Fast forward to the final week of May and AP tests have been taken from home, and depending on the quality of your computer and WiFi connection, maybe your scores were submitted, maybe not. Now sitting in the inbox of students is a new survey from the College Board. The first question: Do you think the College Board should have continued to offer exams this year?

My immediate response was no, and parts of the response I submitted are in this article. I think the decision to continue offering exams was made in poor taste. Amid a global crisis where many families and students find themselves unstable both financially and emotionally, it shows a lack of empathy on the part of the College Board. The time we currently live in is certainly vastly different from when decisions on exams were made in March. That being said, nothing was stopping the College Board from altering their decisions to accommodate what is and has been a rapidly changing world. While I am lucky enough to be in a position where I had the resources to take and submit my tests with ease, many of my peers did not have this luxury. For many KO students, the quarantine is more of an inconvenience than a disaster of financial devastation. Nonetheless, there are families in our country and state that could have used the $94 AP test fee (or even a partial refund) to pay for food or rent. However, the test we all paid for was not the test we took. The financial situation of those who signed up for tests in the fall is, for many, not the same as where they currently find themselves.

The question itself is problematic simply in how it is phrased. “Offer” is not the word I think best describes the continuation of AP exams for students. Many schools, including KO, require taking the AP exam to receive credit for that class. This isn’t necessarily the fault of KO or any other high school; logically, it wouldn’t make sense to advertise a class as being AP level if the accepted method of proving that is disregarded. The AP test faces much of the same criticism the SAT and ACT do: Not all students can thrive under the pressure of a barrage of multiple-choice questions. Not all students can do their best work with a ticking clock looming over them. Put simply, these traditional forms of testing are obsolete. As educators shift towards discussions of classroom equity over equality, how accurate are AP tests as a representation of success? “Advanced Placement” might invoke ideas of students who want to challenge themselves in a certain discipline, or pursue a passion they have for that subject. Students do take AP classes for more rigor in a subject they are interested in, yes. Regardless, they also have become less of an extension of passion and more so a result of the competitive nature of the college process.

The College Board has the power to change this process; any test they choose not to provide cannot be required by colleges. Money and profit will always be a major motivator, but in the middle of a global pandemic, the cost of AP tests remained an unnecessary stressor for families across the country. Moreover, the unreasonably high cost of testing remained the same, despite the test being virtually a quarter of what had been advertised in the fall. 

The lives and futures of teenagers and their families are being reshaped, not just in the U.S. but around the world. It would have been a nice show of compassion and understanding of the current world climate for AP tests to have been canceled during what is unequivocally the largest crisis of our teen lives.