- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Beginning next year, Charles County Public Schools no longer will pay in advance for students to be able to take Advanced Placement tests, offering instead a reimbursement for the cost if a student scores a 3 or higher out of a possible 5.
Currently, the school system asks that students or parents be responsible for paying for the first AP test a student opts to take, and the system will pay for any additional tests.
AP exams cost $89 each, according to information from the College Board, the company that administers the tests.
Students are not required to take the tests.
Amy Hollstein, assistant superintendent of instruction, proposed the change Tuesday to the Charles County Board of Education, saying that under the change, the system also would reimburse the cost of a career and technical education test if a student earns certification.
Currently, the school system does not pay for any CTE testing.
Hollstein said it isn’t fair for the school system to pay for AP tests and not CTEs.
With the reimbursement, there is more equity in the system’s college and career ready standards, and there is a reward for students who do well, Hollstein said.
As the system has done in the past, the costs for CTE and AP tests would be paid for students with financial hardships.
Hollstein said Charles County is one of the last counties in Maryland that still pays upfront for AP tests.
St. Mary’s County paid upfront for AP tests until 2012, when it moved to reimbursing students for a score of 3 or higher.
This might affect the system’s ranking on the Challenge Index, a ranking of U.S. high schools developed by Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews.
The index is created by adding the number of tests given out for AP, International Baccalaureate and advanced CTE and dividing the total by the number of seniors who graduated.
Charles County Public Schools spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson said the system’s ranking could change as a result of the changes, but the Challenge Index, she said, was not a consideration when making the decision.
“It did not influence our decision,” she said.
Board member Michael K. Lukas asked how much the AP tests were costing the school system.
Hollstein said each year the school system pays more than $180,000 for the tests.
Understanding that many students take four or more AP tests, board member Maura H. Cook suggested having some way of communicating with parents about the costs of the tests early on so they can plan accordingly.
The system also will change how data on AP classes are used and begin testing in a more formative way, Hollstein said.
Students in AP classes will be assessed during the first and second quarter so teachers can gather data on student strengths and weaknesses and use that information to plan for the curriculum. A post-test will be conducted in February to provide teachers with data when writing their student learning objectives. Starting next year, the system will only administer one mock exam. Hollstein said the U.S. history AP class is the gateway course for AP students and will be the only class to have a mock test. Keeping one mock exam will allow students the opportunity to experience a three-hour exam, and it will reduce testing of students in other AP courses.
Regardless of whether they take an AP test, all students in AP courses will be required to sit for the AP final.
Hollstein said the two tests are different. She said the final is used to test students on what they learned the whole year. When students were exempt from taking the course’s final, teachers weren’t able to get accurate data.
With this change, Hollstein said the final will be consistent for all students across the board.
North Point High School student liaison Thomas Lilly asked if the final could be optional for students who take the AP exam as they would be double-tested.
He suggested using the AP exam score as a curved grade for the final.
“That’s probably not going to be an option,” Hollstein said.
She said the final would count toward the student’s grade, and students won’t be able to be exempt from it. In a later interview, she said Lilly had a valid question and a good idea with the curved grade option, but because the time it takes for AP tests to get back to teachers, it wouldn’t work.