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Students Argue Against Costly AP Exam Requirement

Two Hills East seniors claim HHH practice of transcript designation is a punishment.

The Half Hollow Hills School District’s requirement that students in an Advanced Placement course must take an optional College Board exam in order have “AP” designation on their high school transcripts, punishes high-achieving teens with an expensive and sometimes, pointless, test claim two seniors.

Jacob Henner and Josh Shinbrot who attend High School East have both taken several College Board accredited AP courses, which have the highest difficulty level of any class offered by a high school. At the end of the course, the College Board gives students the option to take an AP exam. The exam can grant college credit, depending on how well a student does. 

The price tag of one exam is $87, which does save students thousands later on, if their college of choice accepts the AP credits. For Henner and Shinbrot, their schools do not.

It would cost Henner, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania, $609 to take the exams for all AP classes he is enrolled in. However, even a perfect score on half of them, will not be accepted by the university. Shinbrot, who is enrolling at Georgetown University, is in a similar predicament. For that reason, once accepted to the university of their choice, students enrolled in the AP classes may decide any benefit of taking the exams does not outweigh their cost.

While the College Board does not require a student to take the AP exam in order to have the “AP” label affixed to his or her high school transcript, the Half Hollow Hills School District does. If a student completes all requirements for the AP course, but opts out of the test, his or her transcript will have “College” written next to the course subject instead. The change of designation can be misleading in Half Hollow Hills, where some courses are named “College” courses, but have a lower level of difficulty than AP classes.

“The student, having taken the full-length AP course, with all of the same work as his or her peers, does not
 deserve his or her accomplishments to be held in any lower regard,” Henner who is co-president of the HHH chapter of the National Federation of American Students, wrote in a letter to school administrators.

Henner, who would be paying more than $600 to take the exams, called the district’s practice “unreasonable.”

“That money could have instead
been contributed to my College fund, and with the current price of 
higher education, every dollar counts for me. I'll be working three jobs
 this summer just to outweigh a percentage of costs for room and board,
and I can imagine it being even harder for other students. For families 
facing economic hardship, these costs could have a significant impact on
 daily activities, or necessities,” he wrote.

There are other schools, such as Jericho High School, that do require all students enrolled in AP classes to take the test. However, in Jericho, the district pays for the exams instead of the students.

“Forcing students to pay is fundamentally wrong,” Shinbrot said at the board meeting.

After speaking to members of the College Board, John O’Farrell, assistant superintendent
for secondary education, defended the district’s policy. He explained that the reason behind the transcript designation is due to a looming concern that the district would not be allowed to offer AP courses in the future if more and more students chose not to take the tests each year. 

"We understand the situation Jake and Josh are in with regards to their AP examinations. The reality is that some colleges and universities are becoming more selective about granting credit for these courses and the district will be addressing this issue in the future. Our long-term concern is for the integrity and viability of our AP program if students do not participate in these exams,” he said. “Colleges still encourage and recommend that students complete these exams and in many cases would look negatively on students who do not choose to do so."

"We're very worried of what could happen to program and district if we don't have students actually sitting for the exams…We don't want to misrepresent what program we run to the College Board or colleges," he added.

While the district’s concern is of what could happen in the future, the College Board currently does not have any rules about a student in an AP course not being able to have the AP designation on his or her transcript.

“Schools are required to complete the AP Course Audit in order to affix the AP label on students’ transcripts. This is to ensure that any course carrying the AP name does in fact meet the course requirements outlined in AP course and exam descriptions. The College Board does not impose any further requirement that students take the AP exam in order for AP to appear on their transcript,” Deborah Davis, Director of College Readiness Communications, said.

O'Farrell said that the district will be working to address the issue of students having to pay a high price tag for a test that will not necessarily give them the college credits that the exam is intended to. However, for seniors this year, time is working against them. AP exams are already three days in.

Henner said that he and Shinbrot brought their concerns to administrators months ago, but did not receive much response then.

Jill Kaufman May 09, 2012 at 04:34 PM
This has been a long standing issue in HHH. In my opinion, either the district should not have ANY penalty for a student who opts out of the AP exam or the district needs to pay for the cost of the exams if they want to MANDATE it. There have long been many of the same penalties that Jacob wrote about in his open letter which all of you can read here on PATCH and I suggest that you do! So maybe when Mr O'farrell told me this "practice" began in 2010, he was referring to the AP course listing being changed on the students' transcript. That is one penalty I have no recollection of existing when my children attended HSW. Another concern I have is that at the public session of the Board of Education meeting this past Monday, Mr. O'farrell said that although it was not on the College Board's website, when he called the College Board they were "ADAMANT" that the students needed to take the AP exam, yet this article states the same findings as HSE student Jacob Henner that there is no such requirement!
Jill Kaufman May 09, 2012 at 04:39 PM
http://halfhollowhills.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-ap-testing-requirements-need-change
Jill Kaufman May 09, 2012 at 04:41 PM
https://www.facebook.com/NFAStudents
Jill Kaufman May 09, 2012 at 04:42 PM
http://nfas.org/
Jill Kaufman May 10, 2012 at 12:56 AM
I'm curious to know why the administration prevented these students from recording a public Board of Education meeting and why the Board of Education allowed that to happen when in fact the camera was not disruptive or blocking any views or interfering with the process. http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/modelregs_photo_record_broadcast.html
Jacob Henner May 10, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Thank you Mrs. Kaufman. As this article states, this week's AP exams have almost concluded, and next week is the final week of exams. It seems like the district is trying to push the issue aside, until it is too late for it to matter for us, hoping that the issue isn't brought up again. However, the logic and rationale Mr. O'Farrell provided as for the continuance of this policy is false. According to this article, he states "We're very worried of what could happen to program and district if we don't have students actually sitting for the exams…We don't want to misrepresent what program we run to the College Board or colleges." As mentioned in the comments of other articles, College Board, the organization responsible for the AP program, believes the AP Courses and the AP tests are two separate concepts, and with that in mind, they stated that students are free to take one (a course or a test) without the other, without any penalty to the school. Contrary to what Mr. O'Farrell stated, College Board would not feel as if they were mislead by the school district, as College Board makes a penalty-free distinction between the two components of the AP program. As for Colleges, individual colleges can require students to submit AP scores if they have taken a course labeled AP, but that is by no means a universal policy, and it'd be foolish to take preventative measures for a true non-issue. The Colleges would not feel mislead either. CONTINUED
Jacob Henner May 10, 2012 at 01:03 AM
During the admissions process, the colleges see your transcript, which lists AP courses, but most colleges do not require you to submit exam scores. The various school's admissions offices look for the student who has taken the greatest advantage out of courses offered, more so than the student taking the actual AP exams, or else scores would be required in the applications process.
Jacob Henner May 10, 2012 at 01:12 AM
With that said, it feels as if the issue is truly being tabled by administration, and it's understandable as to why it may be. According to http://halfhollowhills.patch.com/articles/hills-west-awarded-gold-medal-in-u-s-news-rankings , an article from yesterday, US News and World Report (and other agencies) ranks schools based on AP participation. Forcing the students to take the exams, regardless of whether it would benefit the student, is likely a result of an attempt to raise these statistics, for the various rating agencies. Keep in mind, they rate by number of test-takers or exams-given, not scores received. And just to clarify, this is no minor issue, affecting only myself, Joshua Shinbrot, and a few others. *Many* students are in the same situation as myself, whether it be at the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Binghamton University or the University of Maryland. Depending on a student's major or previous testing history, each AP exams is not always beneficial, and paying the $87 for the sole purpose of being a statistic, is completely unacceptable. It should be the choice of the student and his or her parent(s) whether an AP exam is taken or not. As this is not the case, the policy is truly misaligned with the best interests of the students of the Half Hollow Hills Central School District.
Jacob Henner May 10, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Just to clarify, I don't dislike district administration. I believe that both Mrs. Fallon and Mr. O'Farrell are both hard-working and dedicated individuals with the best intentions in mind. In this situation, however, I do not believe their views are consistent with the student's best interests, as polled by the National Federation of American Students, and with that said, I have to respectfully disagree with their response to this issue.
Abby A. May 10, 2012 at 05:37 PM
It's very interesting that both young men have opted to take this particular stance after having been accepted into 2 prestigious universities. Do these two young men believe that taking the most rigorous classes that the HHH school district offers and showing mastery of those courses by taking those AP exams had no bearing on their being accepted into said prestigious universities? I know the young men don't believe this based on their arrogant ramblings but I believe the prestige associated with doing well in the HHH school district just might have had a small influence here. I suppose if the boys were true idealists, they would have proffered this letter to the BOE before such acceptances. But no, they were not actually willing to speak before receiving their recommendations or any other accolades given to them from HHH. Joshua and Jacob chose to play by the rules of the game to get them into prestigious colleges and now that they have reaped the rewards they feel compelled to eschew the rules. Cliches have their value and in this case, I think we can say that, well, talk is cheap.
Abby A. May 10, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Additionally, Joshua and Jacob say that speak for all students of HHH. Can you please publish your data so that we can ascertain the veracity of this statement? I know this is not a true statement. So please take your soapbox and don't think you can speak for me just because you think you can.
Abby A. May 10, 2012 at 05:57 PM
And finally, my last thought, I find it distasteful that these young men feel that they can give their opinion with such insouciance on people who have devoted 25-30 years of their professional lives to education. To say they do not have the best interests of the students is just inflammatory and wrong. No one can or should take away their ability to do so even while they seem so callow. This is quite an act of hubris that can only be possibly excused by their inexperience.
Jill Kaufman May 10, 2012 at 06:13 PM
In all fairness, showing mastery of their current courses by taking the exam will have had nothing to do with their acceptances, since that occurred before these exams were even given. Certainly, the grade they receive in the AP course itself also is an indication of how well they have "mastered" the material, is it not?
Jill Kaufman May 10, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Showing mastery of their current courses by taking the AP exams this week would have had nothing to do with their acceptances to college, since that has already occurred. Certainly, the grade they receive in the AP course itself is also an indication of how well they have "mastered" the material. Additionally, this article states that they went to the administration months ago, which I believe would have been before their college acceptances were known. I think many people would agree, that paying for AP exams that are not required and provide no benefit to the student just doesn't make sense, especially in this economy.
Daniel May 10, 2012 at 11:18 PM
For the record, the Federation discussed by Jacob was founded by students at HHH East. It has no actual power, despite the name given to it to make it seem more powerful. Additionally, Josh continuously attempts to involve himself in any school related activities--when everyone else recognizes that he is ridiculous.
Jill Kaufman May 11, 2012 at 12:04 AM
The name calling seems like bullying to me and it's doubtful that "everyone else" feels the way you do. Maybe, we as a district have failed to educate our students in the area of bullying. I applaud students for getting involved in their school and community! kudos to Josh and Jacob for bringing this issue to light.
Susan Stark Burgazzoli May 11, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Let me guess....you're a teacher or in an administrative position, aren't you? What a bunch of baloney Abby. These kids should be applauded. This school district has been going down hill for quite awhile. I am a former graduate when we had 1000 children per class size, had less teachers, AP Classes and had a graduate rate of 98% going to 4 year colleges. So excuse me if I think you're completely misguided and out of touch.
Susan Stark Burgazzoli May 11, 2012 at 01:26 AM
I applaud you Jacob. You keep doing what you're doing. I agree with you that I believe our administration does truly believe what they're doing is in your best interest, but they're not. When I graduated in 1978 we had almost double the number of students, AP classes that were recognized in any college and it didn't cost the student or their parents a single dime. Our graduation rate for children attending 4 year colleges was in the high 90 percentile. Our ratings compared to other school districts are slipping further down as compared to other school districts. I'm saddened you and your classmates didn't get the quality of education that I did. I am behind you 100%!!!
Susan Stark Burgazzoli May 11, 2012 at 01:29 AM
I'm not. If recorded, they would have to stand by EVERY WORD they said and have their answers to questions on the record. Doesn't surprise me one bit. When they were taped on another occassion, the level of bullying from a top administrator was appauling. They're lucky no one released that tape to the press.
HHH Parent May 13, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I fully support these students and the point they are trying to bring to light. Most students and parents have no idea that these tests are not required by the College Board. Once again the district machine - while not occupied with placing the blue and yellows all around town thanks to unchallenged incumbants - is focusing on defaming these students and their efforts. Really?!? So now we, here in HHH, don't just try to demonize community members and parents, we also stoop to bashing and bullying our own students. FOR SHAME!
Jericho Student May 15, 2012 at 02:10 PM
jericho does force people both the take and pay for the exams themselves....i don't know why this article says it doesn't. i was forced to take the ap french exam because i took the class even though i had no hope of passing. i was told that if i didn't take the ap then i would have a letter sent to all the college i was applying to saying i didn't meet the requirements of the course in feb when i was paying for these exams. plus jericho makes you pay more than the 87 dollars college board requires you to pay.

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