At a recent Zoom meeting for my Calculus class, my teacher explained the details of the upcoming Advanced Placement (AP) tests in May; College Board offers both online and digital options, and schools have the flexibility to decide which exam format students take. I looked with dismay at this year’s list of “cons” digital exam has grown longer and longer: no back and forth between questions, no uploading of images of our work (so all math equations must be typed in), as well as concerns about the WiFi and submission issues that were present in last year’s online testing. I felt overwhelmed with frustration.
For over a year now, millions of students across the country were in an environment antithetical to our learning. I haven’t seen my school campus since March 2020. My math teacher said she heard from other teachers that online classes often meet less than in-person classes, which means preparation to this test presents many new challenges. Additionally, the College Board’s digital requirements mean that students without appropriate technology would have to take exams in person, putting them at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. These students are often from low-income communities of color., further perpetuating inequalities in education and health.
Another major problem with this year’s exam is that the in-person exam is designed for a regular school year. It seems redundant to point out that this school year has been anything but regular – our classes, at least, meet much less frequently, and for many, the content has been virtually difficult to digest, and Zoom’s fatigue has been overwhelming. Nonetheless, the College Board did not appear to take into account the impacts of online schooling on student health, well-being and learning.
Grinning at the thought of paying hundreds of dollars for AP tests, going through three hour full tests on my laptop and not being able to check my work, I texted a few friends to share my outrage. . It was no surprise that they too were facing immense stress because of the thoughts of this year’s AP exams. Soon we had a core team of around 25 students, based in Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Philadelphia, who decided to come together to call the College Board for not properly recognizing the difficulties the students faced. in the midst of COVID-19. We worked quickly to mobilize, dividing the work into graphics, research and awareness. In just three days since launching our social media accounts, @ student4examequity, we have obtained thousands of signatures on our petition calling for modification of the AP testing guidelines.
(College Board commentary on Teen Vogue is included at the bottom of this article.)
One of our team members, high school student Madeline Halteh, says she “suffered the effects of an unfair online testing system last year and would not wish it on anyone else.” Halteh discussed the problematic history of standardized testing, and in particular the College Board’s SAT, which was created to measure and apply ideas about racial superiority. Taking this into account, our requests specifically highlight the disproportionate effects of distance learning on BIPOC students, low-income students, and students in difficult family situations. the the pandemic has widened economic disparities and amplified existing socio-economic barriers. By enforcing strict testing guidelines, the College Board only accentuates the inequalities in standardized testing; even in a non-COVID world, we continue to see marginalized students being less likely to receive test fits accurately or have access to expensive test preparation courses. The College Board is not adequately responding to its contribution to educational inequity and instead is exacerbating it by not paying enough attention to the health of students during this pandemic.