School Board considers new AP exam policies

Published 10:54 pm Friday, November 14, 2008

The Suffolk School Board wants Advanced Placement students to take their exams more seriously, it said during the meeting Thursday night.

The board discussed students’ performance on exams for Suffolk’s 10 AP courses. Members learned that students earned a “3” or higher on a scale of 5 in less than a third of the advanced exams taken during the 2007-2008 school year.

The reason for the low pass rate, said Superintendent Milton Liverman, is motivation.

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“They’re just not highly motivated to take the test seriously,” Liverman said.

Advanced Placement courses are offered in 10 subject areas in Suffolk’s high schools. Students who pass the classes receive more credit toward their grade point average than the same letter grade would earn in a regular class. In addition, students are required to take the AP exam, which is administered by the College Board – the same institution that administers the SAT.

Students earning a 3 or better may earn college credit for the class; however, if they do not pass the exam, Suffolk Public Schools still gives the weighted credit.

That policy creates an uneven playing field when it comes to class rank, AP students have complained in the past. It also creates low motivation to do well on the exam, thus creating low pass rates like the 2008 examinees earned.

An AP study committee made several recommendations to improve student motivation and increase the number of exams passed. The most significant one, in terms of providing incentive to pass the exam, was withholding the weighted credits until after the student got a 3 or better on the exam. If a 3 or better were not earned, the student would simply receive the regular credit for the class.

Other recommendations included mandatory summer training for all AP teachers until the average test score is 3 or higher, increasing collaboration among AP and honors teachers, and increasing opportunities for mock testing during the school day.

One recommendation the board disagreed with was requiring students to initially pay for the exam. Students would then be reimbursed for the test if they scored a 3 or better. The school division currently pays the fee for all exams.

The board could vote on some of the recommendations as early as January.

Also during the meeting, the School Board learned the total Suffolk Public Schools enrollment as of Sept. 30 was 13,641. That number is down 30 students from the same period last year. Liverman said there was no particular area that experienced a loss.