News


Amador Valley High students, parents upset over invalid AP test scores

Pleasanton tutoring organization filled with students for free exam preparation reviews

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.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by highdiver
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Hope all the others who posted comments on the other article read this one. It only takes one person to complain to cause a controversy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Registered Joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 8:47 pm

I believe it's a procedural error, something any of us could have done. It's a shame that students will need to retake, but a nationally-used firm like ETS is right to demand enforcement of its rules and procedures.

For just a moment, let's assume the worst case, that the rules and procedures weren't followed because of demonstrated incompetence or willful misconduct. A firing offense, in other words. Does everybody understand that for all practical purposes, a teacher can't be fired in this state? Out of 300,000 teachers in California, an average of a dozen or so have been fired per year over the past 20 years. The CA teachers' unions are THAT powerful.

And before you blame the Pleasanton school board and superintendent, realize that their hands are completely and utterly tied by the rules, procedures, and various contracts in place between the schools and its workers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Even if it were a firing offense your comment is way off base because no teachers were involved. Teachers are not involved in AP testing for pretty obvious reasons.

Why does everything that happen at a school get turned into a union bashing event?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pleasanton mom
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2014 at 11:58 pm

AP testing is taken very seriously - students too close and facing each other - not good.

Yes the kids are the victims, but it's the school's administrative office that is at fault. That's why the Principal feels so bad and is accommodating. My son took 4 AP tests at another school and I can't even imagine if he had to take them over again. I feel bad for these students, but if they want to use them for their college transcripts, then they need to be proctored correctly. You can be pretty certain that they'll be having the yard stick out this next time around.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by William Tell
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 31, 2014 at 7:02 am

(Post deemed inappropriate by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by cosmic-charlie
a resident of Downtown
on May 31, 2014 at 9:45 am

This in my opinion is a contrived mess!

It's amazing, what are we teaching our kids. They go into the classrooms to take these tests, sit down, keep their feet on the floor, follow instructions and do exactly what they're told! And for what?

The scores should count and these kids should not be required to take this test again. The test takers were not at fault... only the test givers. Those students were there in good faith with no evidence of cheating whatsoever. You parents who have kids affected by this should be completely outraged and the demand that the scores stand! There's no excuse for this... the kids don't deserve to be punished for something that they did in good faith. I am mad as he!!.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by second priority
a resident of Amador Estates
on May 31, 2014 at 11:00 am

(Comment partially removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff)

Back to the topic of the AP tests, my guess is that it was not the fault of the unions or the teachers. Just sloppiness and sheer laziness in adherence to the rules. Whomever contracted with the proctors did not do any due diligence in vetting them or overseeing them. And that buck lies with school administration.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ptown MOM
a resident of Civic Square
on May 31, 2014 at 11:05 am

Did the principal check the rooms?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on May 31, 2014 at 11:40 am

I believe that the CIA should be called in after such an earth shaking matter...no doubt that at least a few students were cheathing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by in reply to Ptown MOM
a resident of Castlewood
on May 31, 2014 at 11:57 am

Comment deemed inappropriate by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nemo Wonderful
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 31, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Hello folks. To put this in some perspective, two things: Amador has seen the number of AP tests taken explode over the last decade, and the students have done well on the tests. But the school faces a real problem in having adequate space for tests while still running classes. No doubt people will be upset next year when they move kids 100 at a time into a gym to take a test. As for fighting the ETS, they tried that in Millbrae, including retaining a law firm, and lost. Their kids retook the test in August, but most had already needed to come up with new college class schedules. Finally, while I agree that it's not fair, the lynch-mob attitude and vitriol evidenced in many of these comments is really remarkable. Perhaps we should stop emphasizing tests so much. As for administrators on cell phones, I totally agree that nobody should have cell phones at school, including the students. It shouldn't be tough, since none of the kids are on their phones all the time, right?


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