Some fear new deadline, fees will keep some students out of AP classes

The College Board has moved up the deadline to register for spring AP tests and has increased the cancellation fee from $15 to $40. Some parents, teachers, students and counselors fear this will keep some low-income students from taking the test. AJC file photo

The College Board has moved up the deadline to register for spring AP tests and has increased the cancellation fee from $15 to $40. Some parents, teachers, students and counselors fear this will keep some low-income students from taking the test. AJC file photo

Arriving at the finish line to an intensive course of study may have become a bit more stressful, some contend. The College Board, which administers the Advanced Placement program, has moved up the registration date for high school students taking the college-level courses and the optional exams in the spring.

Students previously had until March to decide if they would take the May exam, but the new deadline is in November. Additionally, the College Board is imposing a $40 late fee for missing the November deadline and a $40 cancellation fee for those who register but then don’t take the exam.

Students who pass an exam with a score of 3 or higher on a 5-point scale can earn college credit at many institutions.

Parents, students, teachers and guidance counselors have expressed concern that the earlier deadline and increased cancellation fee may hurt low-income students.

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“The cost of applications and exams, not to mention the prep courses and other expenses regularly paid by privileged students, are widening the gap between what is possible for those in difficult economic situations,” wrote Jennifer Wander, a Wisconsin high school counselor, in a petition she posted earlier this year. Her goal was 150,000 signatures by May 15. Monday, there were 120,497.

AP students in Gwinnett County have until Nov. 10 to register for exams for all first-semester courses. Students taking single-semester courses in the spring, including AP government and economics, will register between Jan. 6 and March 8.

The district pays the registration fee for the first AP exam for all Gwinnett students currently enrolled in an AP course, except $10 that students are required to pay. Each additional exam registration is $94. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch pay only the $10 fee for any exams. Gwinnett students register and pay for AP exams online and must confirm that they will pay a $40 cancellation fee per exam if they miss or skip an exam.

“As a school district, we want to ensure that, in the future, we continue our trajectory of increasing the number of students who show mastery on AP exams with a score of 3, 4, or 5,” said Keena Ryals-Jenkins, accelerated programs and gifted director. “These results have shown evidence of being aligned to future college and career success.”

The state Department of Education, like many across the country, isn’t happy about the changes.

“We are not unsupportive of the earlier deadline, but do have some concerns about its impact on AP participation,” said Gail Humble, program manager for college readiness. “We’re also concerned about the new $40 cancellation and unused test fee that will be in effect this year – previously, this fee was $15 – and whether it could deter students from registering from the exam in November. We are encouraging districts to develop clear policies to address the $40 penalty, and we’ve been communicating about both changes with districts and schools since they were initially announced.”

During the 2017-2018 academic year, 120,479 Georgia public high school students enrolled in AP courses. In May of 2018, a total of 154,579 AP exams were completed by Georgia public school students, according to Georgia DOE.

Despite the grumblings, the College Board is standing its ground.

“More than half of all AP schools offer some form of fall registration. And, in these schools, students are more engaged and less likely to give up — and as a result they’re more likely to earn a score that will translate to college credit,” said College Board spokeswoman Amanda Ingersoll. “We piloted fall registration in hundreds of schools during the last two school years, and in our pilot schools we saw an increased number of students undertake the challenge of taking a college-level course and exam while in high school.”

There are practice resources online to help students track the progress they’re making on learning course content and skills, she added.

Most Clayton County Public School offer the majority of their AP classes during the second semester, said spokesman Ron Shields.

“As it is our goal to eliminate barriers and increase access to high-level rigorous course work, we are confident that we will see a rise in the number of students taking an AP exam this school year,” he added.

Fulton County has also been getting the word out, but the school district has some of the same concerns as others.

“While it is our practice for all students who take the course to actually take the test, the recent change in timeline puts a hardship on students who legitimately change courses after the first semester. We are indeed focused on making sure all students are registered, on time and prepared to take the test,” said spokesman Brian Noyes.