By Justin Robertson
Advanced Placement (AP) courses have been a pivotal part in Howard County, and especially Glenelg, students' future success. With every AP course that is taken by students, an AP test can be taken in early May to receive college credit if the score is taken by colleges and if the score is high enough. Usually, a college requires at least a score of three or four out of five on the test in order to receive college credit, which can be a daunting goal for some students. In order to have a better pass rate for students, College Board has introduced a new, controversial policy that moves the AP test registration deadline up to November fifteenth, three months earlier than the March deadline students had to meet in previous years. Although College Board has explained their reasoning for the new deadline, some of the public has become puzzled with the change.
For years the AP test registration deadline has occurred sometime in the Spring, but now College Board has pushed this deadline all the way up to early November. The reason for this change is that “College Board has been collecting data that shows that students who register early are more engaged in class because they know they are taking the exam, and because of that they have better outcomes when they do take the exam,” says Glenelg’s AP coordinator, Mrs. Grebe. If this change does result in more student engagement in classes, that is a great, positive outcome, but that may not actually result in better scores. Although the total scores on AP tests may increase, the AP curve prohibits any monumental change in the scores earned on the five point scoring scale. The AP bell shaped curve will almost always have a majority of students scoring below a four or five on the exam. When taking that factor into consideration, hopefully College Board realizes that even if students do pay more attention in class and study for the exam, their scores may not benefit as a result of many other students’ scores improving as well.
One positive impact that seems likely from the registration change however is the difference in scores for underrepresented groups, such as low income students. When College Board experimented with the fall registration back in the 2017-2018 school year, 40,000 students were studied. Based on those who did register in the fall, there seemed to be an increase in scores of three or higher, and there was a dramatic difference for low income students, with a twenty percent increase of those students receiving a three or higher on the exam. If this sample size accurately represents the entire population, the registration deadline change may be beneficial for many. For those curious about the specific statistics for other groups from the experiment, along with the low income group, the data can be found at the following link: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/ap-2019/.
Although College Board seems to be in full support of their change, the students at Glenelg do not seem to be content, as they are becoming frustrated with the changes. “I think with the new changes we don’t really have enough time to [think about] what tests to take and what tests not to take,” Senior Mohith Konduru says. There is some truth to Konduru’s point, since the decrease in time to choose whether or not to take the AP exam is significant. It is hard enough to know by March if you are prepared to take the exams, but figuring that out in October or November is even more difficult. In many AP classes, only the baseline information has been taught by this time, which does not allow students to have a full grasp of the scope of the content that will be tested come May. Glenelg Senior, Ryan Cauley, who is planning to take multiple AP tests this year, sees this flaw with the change and says, “with this new deadline, I have been kind of forced to take all of my tests, even though I am not confident I will be ready for all of them [in May].” College Board does seem to want students to have the best chances at success, but the way they are going about increasing students’ success may not have been well thought out, as evident from Cauley’s statement.
Once students do register for an AP exam, there is still a financial struggle if one needs to back out of taking that exam. When College Board’s AP registration officially ends on November fifteenth, students will be charged a forty dollar fee for any change regarding taking a test. Glenelg Senior, Cole Miller says, “to me this whole new change just seems to be a money [scheme]. College Board seems to just want more money from us rather than seeing better success for students. I don’t know if I’m going to be prepared for a test six months later.” Any company or business has a common goal with one another, and that is making money. Financial gains are important for any corporation, but for College Board making money should not be as big of a priority. Students should have the best chance to have success on AP tests, but with this new registration deadline, it seems that money is the top priority. Forty dollars per test change does not seem significant, but if that were to be multiplied by hundreds of thousands of changes across the country, that is a different story. All of a sudden College Board is now making millions of dollars, despite it being a “non-profit” organization.
AP exams have caused plenty of stress for students in the past, but with the new registration change, the stress levels are rising even more. Although some positives are likely to result from the change, especially for underrepresented groups, the drawbacks from the change are frustrating both students and parents, who are usually the ones who pay for their child taking the exam. The bottom line is that everyone, including College Board, wants students to have success on AP exams, but the current way College Board is attempting to create that success may not be the best solution.