If you are a high school student, you have probably heard of the infamous College Board. The SATs and the AP tests, a staple in many high school student's careers, and whether you love them or hate them, it has always been something that has been required. Until now.
The COVID-19 Pandemic struck colleges hard, with limited visits from students all over the world and students not being able to sit exams, they had to make a change. They made standardized tests such as the ACT and the SAT optional as students all over the world couldn't sit them.
These tests were always considered as a gateway to universities, common phrases like “if I don't get at least 1500 there is no way I’m getting into an ivy league” or “you need at least 1300 to get into a decent university” became common until this application year. Students no longer needed to take the SAT, driving admissions rates lower than ever with Harvard accepting a mere 3.4% of its applicants and Columbia accepting 3.7%.
This shortfall in students taking the SAT leads to a cut in College Board's $600 million revenue from administering the SAT, a standardized test score from 400 to 1600, which aims to provide universities with a score to help compare students from across the world. With a dent in those profits and no way to make more students take the SAT, the College Board decided to move their AP (advanced placement) exams online.
“When the country shut down due to coronavirus, we surveyed AP students nationwide, and an overwhelming 91 percent reported a desire to take the AP Exam at the end of the course. Within weeks, we redesigned the AP Exams so that they could be taken at home,” claimed College Board.
With honorable school program exams such as the International Bachelorette (IB) and A-Levels being canceled, the class of 2020 students was in awe when they heard they still needed to still prepare for exams even with all chaos of not even knowing if they are going to have a graduation.
After conducting their ‘well thought out planning’ and ‘great test simulation’ in just a matter of a few weeks, the College Board was set to put on a perfect performance with 2.4 million students' test scores in their hands.
However, that was not the case. Not even a week after the first round of online test were administers students took to the masses, complaining about the technical glitches and said were unable to submit their tests.
Llanet Zamora, a parent in Los Angeles even stated “My son has a brand new mac laptop with all updates and when he tried submitting his essay part of the exam, and still had enough time to do it, it didn’t let him,”.
Complaints like this and many more led to a class-action lawsuit filed in a federal court in California of students demanding their tests be graded and not to re-take them the following month, as it was the College Board's fault they were not able to submit. This was in addition to another $500 million to cover the damages.
Shortly after this, College Board released a statement saying “that less than 1% of students were unable to submit their responses.” However, Philip Baker and Marci Lerner Miller, attorneys representing the students argue otherwise.
“Despite revenues of close to half a billion dollars a year from its AP program alone, the College Board failed to do what was necessary to make its at-home AP exams fair and accessible. This is inexcusable in light of the unprecedented challenges faced by students and their families this year,” stated Philip Baker and Marci Lerner Miller.
The plaintiff's main case argues the fact that “College Board ignored warnings that the online tests would discriminate against students with disabilities and students who lack access to the digital technology needed to take the at-home AP exams.”
Peter Schwartz, Chief Risk Officer and General Counsel for College Board reply to the student's claims as nothing more than “a PR stunt masquerading as a legal complaint being manufactured by an opportunistic organization that prioritizes media coverage for itself.”
The College Board, administering AP exams since May 1956, tests students on over 38 subjects ranging from math to literature. The exams normally entail a multiple-choice section and a free-response essay question(s) at the end. With these exams being taken online, College Board opted to mainly free response questions with an option for kids to handwrite. However, it was also mentioned in the lawsuit that these students were not able to upload their writing within the 45-minute window, to the College Board website in time to be scored.
As the AP exams are online again for this year's class of 2021, College Board is under a microscope, making edits and changes to ensure fewer issues and to make up for the lawsuit as the details of the case continue in court and investigations.
With the pandemic causing schools and test centers to be shut, the billion-dollar standardized testing empire may be under an immense amount of pressure, scrummaging for opportunities to administer the exam to students even with Forbes reporting that “more than 500 colleges, including every school in the Ivy League, have joined the growing “test-optional” movement.” and that “more than 1,600 four-year schools will not require scores for admission in 2021”. This ongoing lawsuit, the administration of the AP exams this year, and College Boards steady decline in revenue bring families to wonder if the exams are only being administered as a way for the company to make a quick dollar rather than to “connect students to college success and opportunity” as College Board claims in their mission statement.