Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 6, 2014

Amador students told to retake AP exams

Second investigation reduces number of affected test-takers

by Amanda Aguilar

Students and parents say they're frustrated and outraged over College Board's decision to invalidates hundreds of Advanced Placement exam scores at Amador Valley High School due to reported "seating irregularities."

The initial investigation by Educational Testing Service (ETS) -- a program that administers and scores tests for College Board -- determined 400 students had to retake their AP exams, but as of Tuesday afternoon, that total was reduced by 85 students.

"As a senior ready to graduate, I was very excited about this decision, although I had already studied for all three exams," Amador student Aditi Newadkar said.

The first investigation began after a student expressed concerns on May 20 about the seating arrangements during AP exams to testing officials, according to Tom Ewing of ETS.

ETS launched an official investigation after the student's notification and sent an investigator out to the campus on May 21.

Pleasanton schools superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said the investigator visited the testing rooms and measured the spacing between seats as well as interviewed students about the seating arrangements.

Based on the measurements and information provided by school officials and people present during testing, ETS determined some students' seating did not comply with regulations requiring students to sit five feet apart and face the same direction.

The school was notified on the evening of May 28 about the "seating irregularities," according to Ahmadi.

Students whose test results were scrubbed were notified May 29 that they would have to retake their AP exams because of improper seating arrangements in certain testing rooms.

"Amador has been administering AP tests for many years and I would assume that they are experienced in this matter," junior Katie Lyness said. "However, due to carelessness, administrators did not comply with simple College Board regulations that have been firmly in place for years."

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 May 29.

"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."

ETS followed up with a second investigation Monday morning.

"(Vice principal) Rick Sira and I were very relentless with providing the investigator more compelling information and evidence," Drescher said.

After further investigation, ETS is now requiring students that took an exam in testing rooms P-3 and students that sat at a table with another student in testing room P-7 to retake their AP exams.

According to Drescher, the follow-up reduced the invalid exam totals from 587 tests to 409 tests, with 85 students not having to retake their exams.

"Though I am personally relieved that I didn't have to retake the exam, I remain disappointed that many of my fellow students will still have to retake their exams due to a small error that they weren't responsible for," said senior Jennifer Teitell, who no longer needs to retake her AP macroeconomics exam.

Amador holds parent forums

Amador held parent forums on May 30 and June 1 to address any concerns or questions parents had about the seating issue. The meetings were only open to parents and closed to the media.

Becky and Rick Altman, parents of senior Jamie Altman, attended the May 30 morning forum and said parents were constantly shouting throughout the meeting.

According to Becky Altman, the Amador principal said at the May 30 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.

School community unites in light of incident

The Amador school community came together in the wake of the initial invalidation announcement to help the impacted students.

Senior Barry Somanathan created a Facebook page named "Vox Populi - AV Students Against AP Retakes" on the night of May 29. It currently has over 200 members.

Lorie Prynn's daughter was not affected by the irregularities, but she says her daughter's teacher 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 would 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 last Sunday in computer science, calculus BC, U.S. history, chemistry and statistics. A free review session was also offered on Monday for biology.

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