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SDUSD administrators face angry crowd

Superintendent Cindy Marten addresses an angry crowd. Area 6 Superintendent Fabiola Bagula stands behind her and District B School Board Member Kevin Beiser sits to the left. (photos by John Gregory)

SDUSD administrators face angry crowd

One parent’s son is in Africa this summer. Another’s daughter is at Cornell. Another’s son is working on an island as a counselor. In order to retake their Advanced Placement (AP) exams this summer, they would have to abandon their summer commitments and arrange last-minute transportation to return to San Diego. The costs would be substantial. These are just a few of the major inconveniences common to families with Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) students who would have to retake their AP exams this summer if a ruling by the College Board stands.

A capacity crowd attended the special meeting with the San Diego Unified School District administration to discuss the problems with the AP exams that were rejected.

These details were but a few of the particulars revealed during a heated meeting with officials from the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and a capacity crowd of Scripps Ranch High parents and students. The event was held Wednesday night, July 5, in the multi-purpose room at Marshall Middle School. The College Board cited irregularities in the way the AP exams were administered to Scripps Ranch High School students this spring, and ruled that the scores would be invalidated. Approximately 547 Scripps Ranch High students will have to retake the tests if they wish to get their scores. According to the College Board, chairs for the students who took the exams were placed too close together during the testing and partitions were placed between the students, which is against the rules. However, no kind of cheating was discovered on the part of the students who finished the exams. The SDUSD panel attending the meeting included SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten; Rick Novak, the first principal at Marshall Middle School; SDUSD Area 6 Superintendent Fabiola Bagula; District B School Board member Kevin Beiser; William Low, recently-hired outside law counsel for SDUSD; and Matt Lawson, SRHS vice principal. These are some of the more startling details that emerged from the meeting:

    • Rick Novak, the first principal at Marshall Middle School, will oversee the AP re-testing this time.

      One SRHS student was actually caught cheating on the exams, but this student was not one of those affected by the College Board’s ruling. In fact, that student was not allowed to finish the exam. However, the cheating was self-reported by the school, and this was the “discrepancy” that first alerted the College Board to look into the report about the way the exams were conducted at SRHS. Bagula admitted that she used the term “discrepancy” as a way to protect the identity of the student in question, which is required by law. While the cheating came to the attention of the College Board on June 7, the Board did not discover the irregularities in the administration of the exams until late June. The College Board attempted to contact the school the last week of June, but due to construction at the campus, all communication was cut. So, the College Board flew a representative to San Diego that same week to deliver the news of the invalidated test scores.

    • The College Board met Monday, July 3, to discuss the SRHS situation and decided to fly from New York to San Diego to formally meet with SDUSD this week. The College Board will meet with SDUSD this morning at 7 a.m. in a private meeting. They will meet again, but this time at Marshall Middle School at 9 a.m. Upon hearing this, members of the audience were very vocal in encouraging everyone to converge at the school to make sure their voices are heard by the College Board.
    • Fabiola agreed to let two parents attend the meetings with the College Board as representatives of the families of students affected by the Board’s decision.
    • Fabiola also said that the Test Board was originally going to allow only one set of re-testing, but SDUSD convinced the Board to allow the second set of tests in August.
    • Lawson explained that students intending to re-take the exams should contact the school quickly because he has to place the order for the exams no later than this Friday, July 7.
    • While students retaking the exams will not have to pay another fee, the cost of travel and missed work, among other factors, can add up expense-wise. Marten revealed that families can submit claims to the school district’s risk management department for these expenses. Reimbursement is not guaranteed, however.
    • The seating rules changed two years ago and some parents wondered if the tests taken in the years also had irregularities not yet discovered, and if so, would those tests also be rejected. Fabiola explained that the College Board told SDUSD to “Please don’t tell us about any past years.”
    • The SDUSD school board will meet Thursday night to decide what actions to take, including legal action against the College Board. SDUSD hired William Low as an outside attorney to advise and possible carry out the legal action.
    • When an audience member asked what was being done about preserving the original exam scores in case of a reversal, Lawson answered, causing the audience to gasp. “I don’t even know if they have the scores, so I can’t answer that,” he said.
  • Some Scripps Ranch High School teachers have volunteered to return to school this summer to conduct study sessions for students forced to retake the exam. The retesting will not cost the students more test fees, and those not able to take the new exams will have their money refunded. Retesting is being offered July 17-20 and again Aug. 7-10. Students must register to retake the exams by this Friday, as soon as possible. A set of links to SDUSD’s explanation of the incident and schedules for AP refresher sessions and the makeup exams are on the Scripps Ranch High School website under AP Free Retest, or click here: bit.ly/2uaPgTQ.
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