Updated: Dec 31, 2020
On May 17, The College Board announced a “backup email submission process for browser-based exams” on their page for AP Coronavirus Updates. Advanced Placement (AP) is a program created by the College Board offering college-level curricula and exams to high school students. The exams are scored on a scale of one to five, with a score of three and above considered passing. A high exam score can grant placement and course credit in college, but high school credit for these courses is often weighted as well, meaning that the grades are out of five points rather than four. Grade point average (GPA) is naturally one of the considerations on which college admissions are based, thus highlighting the AP program as a cornerstone of American education and adolescent anxieties. In fact, last year, just under 1.25 million U.S. public high school seniors from the class of 2019 took at least one AP exam, with nearly 5 million exams administered in total. To ensure security and validity, these tests are traditionally administered in public settings under the watchful eye of one or several proctors. With in-person classes suspended and social gatherings banned came the question of if and how these exams would be administered.
In mid-March, senior vice president for Advanced Placement Program and Instruction Trevor Packer confirmed the development of at-home AP exams and extensive security measures to ensure fairness during the two-week testing period from Monday, May 11 to 22. Hours-long exams would be replaced by one or two prose-based questions, ranging from 45 to 25 to 15 minutes long. His infamous Twitter account, which many students have wryly depended on for AP updates since 2011, was flooded with national concern over internet access, study/testing environment, adequate preparation (or lack thereof), and testing security. “The AP Physics C: Mechanics exam has just been completed by ~50,000 inspiring students who took an AP exam in a way different from any of us expected this year,” dutifully reported Packer to his 64.5k following on the morning of May 11. “Congratulations to these students for making history!”
Though Packer alleged that just two percent encountered issues submitting responses, as the days continued, more and more students found fault with error messages and frozen submission buttons (Cohen, 2020). Students took to social media and forums such as TikTok and Reddit to express outrage, frustration, and straight-up tears over their now-invalid hard work. This last week of AP testing, which began on Monday, May 18, was assured by The College Board to have a back-up email option in the immediacy of a case in which browser submission had gone awry. Nonetheless, incidents during the first week of testing would not be compensated, and hard-earned answers would not be accepted; AP students from May 11 to 15 would have to take a make-up test in June.
While some are taking this situation lightly, viewing the first exam as a test drive, other students are far from it. Without federal assistance, these exams clock in at 94 dollars apiece, a hefty price for a minutes-long, online exam administered by an alleged “not-for-profit” organization. In fact, in 2018, the AP program brought in nearly 483 million in revenue, and The College Board has previously faced much scrutiny over its high exam costs potentially contributing to educational and socioeconomic disparity over the decades (ProPublica, 2020). Dryly referring to the "not-for-profit" organization as a business, students have brought The College Board under criticism for botching a simple submission browser, thereby failing to deliver on their "product" in spite of enormous financial means.
Nonetheless, though fees can be waived or reduced for qualifying students, The College Board, which also administers the SAT, maintains a monopoly over the American education system and plays a major role in determining the future of our young Americans. As the face of our nation’s education system, perhaps this organization would be better off paying closer attention to SAT scandals and its CEO's 1.5 million dollar paycheck. But then again, maybe those dollar signs are what represent American education best. And a mini sting operation on Reddit is probably the most efficient use of time and resources (Kircher, 2020). Right, r/dinosauce313?
Cohen, L. (2020, May 16). "Outdated browsers" prevented thousands of high schoolers from submitting AP exams. CBS News. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/outdated-browsers-prevented-thousands-of-high-schoolers-from-being-able-to-submit-ap-exams/.
Kircher, M. (2020, May 17). Students Think the College Board Is Running a Reddit Sting to Catch AP Test Cheaters. Vulture. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.vulture.com/2020/05/college-board-fake-reddit-account-ap-test-cheaters.html.
Schwenke, K. et al. (2020, April 14). Nonprofit Explorer. ProPublica. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/131623965.