Students and parents say they're frustrated and outraged over College Board's decision Wednesday to invalidate about 400 students' Advanced Placement exam scores at Amador Valley High School due to reported "seating irregularities."
Students whose test results were scrubbed were notified Thursday that they will have to retake their AP exams next week because of improper seating arrangements in certain testing rooms.
In addition to an automated voicemail from Amador principal Dr. Thomas Drescher, parents received a letter from the school about the incident with an apology on Thursday.
"Please know we are deeply sorry for this mistake. Your child worked tirelessly all year to prepare for this exam," the letter stated. "We fully recognize the impact this has on your child and family."
On May 20, a student expressed concerns about the seating arrangements to testing officials, according to Tom Ewing of Educational Testing Service (ETS), a program that administers and scores tests for College Board.
ETS launched an official investigation after the student's notification and sent an investigator out to the campus.
Pleasanton schools superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said the investigator visited the testing rooms and measured the spacing between seats.
In addition, senior Kira Ewanich, who will be retaking the AP government test, said she was called into the library on May 21 to point out on a seating chart where she sat during the exam.
Based on the measurements and information provided by school officials and individuals present during testing, ETS determined some students' seating did not comply with regulations.
The school was notified Wednesday night about the "seating irregularities," according to Ahmadi.
"After an investigation of the testing rooms, Educational Testing Services (ETS) found that in testing room P-3, students were not seated the required 5 feet apart and not all students were seated facing the same direction," Amador's letter stated. "ETS found the same situation for certain students testing in room P-7."
"This is all based on two inches," said senior Jamie Altman in an email. "TWO INCHES and now 400 kids have to retake multiple tests. There is one student who has to retake five. That's just unacceptable."
Junior Katie Lyness, who will be retaking the AP statistics test, believes the fault lies with the school.
"Amador has been administering AP tests for many years and I would assume that they are experienced in this matter," she said. "However, due to carelessness, administrators did not comply with simple College Board regulations that have been firmly in place for years."
Lyness' mom, Nancy, echoed her daughter's statement.
"It's not as though the school did not know about the rules," she said. "It knew about the rules but just didn't take the measures necessary to ensure compliance with them."
Ahmadi said school-hired proctors are not in charge of seating arrangements but rather that responsibility is given to school administrators.
"The school administrators take full responsibility," Ahmadi said.
Students affected by the mistake will not only have to retake their AP exams, but they will also be taking their final exams next week.
"Kids will be disadvantaged with regard to their other exams because they now have to devote their precious time to re-preparing to take the AP exams they already took," Nancy Lyness said.
However, there are some students who are declining to retake the exams, such as Altman, whose AP literature score was affected.
"It's not worth it to me, to write three essays and answer a multiple choice section again, something I thought I was already done with weeks ago," she said. "As a senior, I'm mentally checked out."
"The students are the victims here, yet we are the ones being punished," Altman added.
College Board has worked with the school and scheduled students to retake exams from June 2-9 at no additional cost.
A similar incident invalidated the tests of more than 200 Mills High School students in Millbrae last year. Students had to retake their
exams in August after the Educational Testing Service found some students were seated too close together with some at circular tables.
Amador holds parent forums
Amador held parent forums Friday morning and afternoon to address any concerns or questions parents had about the seating issue. The meetings were only open to parents and closed to the media.
Altman's parents, Becky and Rick, attended Friday morning's forum and said parents were constantly shouting throughout the meeting.
Rick Altman said he believes parents should have been notified when students were first alerted about the spacing issue and he doesn't feel like school "went to bat" for its students against the College Board's decision.
"They cooperated with the investigation, but they didn't fight against the decision," he said.
According to Becky Altman, the Amador principal said at the forum that he would personally write letters to colleges explaining the situation on behalf of any student who declined to retake the exam.
"The students in no way are accused of doing anything wrong, but they're the ones having to deal with the school's mistake," she said.
Another forum will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Amador.
School community unites in light of incident
Although only 400 students were affected by "spacing irregularities", the Amador school community is coming together to help the affected students during this stressful and frustrating situation.
Senior Barry Somanathan created a Facebook page named "Vox Populi - AV Students Against AP Retakes" on Thursday night. It currently has over 200 members.
An Amador student left a comment on the page stating, "Hey everyone! Leadership today had a discussion about this whole situation, and we want to help out in any way possible. We had an idea of a study day tomorrow (5/31) at Amador from 9 a.m.-1 p.m."
Lorie Prynn's daughter was not affected by the irregularities, but she says her daughter's teacher has cleared the class schedule and had students group together to help the affected students re-study for their AP exams.
Ahmadi also said that teachers and counselors will be available for students as they prepare to retake their exams.
Also, in an effort to help students before they retake the exams, Steps Tutoring and SAT Prep offered free review sessions on Sunday in Computer Science, Calculus BC, U.S. History, Chemistry and Statistics. A free review session is also being offered at 4:30 p.m. today for Biology.
Students filled the classrooms at Steps at at 2340 Santa Rita Rd. Sunday. For more information on the reviews, call (925) 600-9300.