College Board, the organization that administers the new online version of the Advanced Placement (AP) exams, now faces lawsuit from students who experienced trouble submitting their answers because of technical glitches.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in a federal court on behalf of thousands of students across the United States, alleges the College Board breached its contract, was negligent, and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other issues. It also demands the College Board pay more than $500 million as compensation and score their answers instead of requiring them to take the rigorous tests again in June.
The AP tests are typically three hours long and taken in schools designated as test locations. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closure of schools, the College Board developed a 45-minute open-note version that can be taken online at home. The first ever online AP tests raised almost immediate complaints about issues such as some test-takers not being able to submit answers, while others even failed to log on to the testing platform.
“Given the wide variety of devices and browsers students are using, we anticipated that a small percentage of students would encounter technical difficulties,” the College Board said in a press release on May 12, the second day of this year’s AP tests.
“We have a makeup window in June, so students have another opportunity to test,” said the College Board, acknowledging that “less than one percent” of the more than a million students who took the tests “encountered technical difficulties.”
The plaintiffs of the suit, however, allege that College Board knew ahead of time that students would encounter technical problems and should therefore accept the students’ answers, as long as they have proof they were completed last week by timestamp, photo, and email.
“The College Board rushed ‘untested’ AP computerized exams into the marketplace in order to preserve the testing company’s largest revenue-generating program after schools shut down this spring, even though they were warned about many potential access, technology and security problems,” said Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director at FairTest, a non-profit organization promoting fair standardized testing, and one of the plaintiffs in the suit.
“Even if only 1 percent of test-takers could not transmit their answers because the College Board’s technology was not ready for prime time, at least 20,000 students were affected,” said Schaeffer.
Each year, millions of high school students take over 30 different AP exams that cover a wide range of subjects from U.S. History to music theory, Spanish literature, and macroeconomics. The cost of an AP exam is generally between $100 and $150 per test. In 2018, the College Board earned over $480 million dollars from the AP program alone, according to the lawsuit.
High school students who take the AP tests need at least a score of 3, 4, and 5 to pass. Students can exchange the passing scores into college credits in corresponding subjects, and thus save on tuition.
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