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.