School district outside legal counsel William Low (from left), District Boardmember Kevin Beiser and Superintendent Cindy Marten attend a July 5 public meeting. (photo by John Gregory)
More details about last week’s AP meeting
Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) students and their parents await a federal court ruling regarding a temporary restraining order filed by the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) against the College Entrance Examination Board and Educational Testing Services (ETS). The legal action requests that the College Board be ordered to grade and validate Advance Placement (AP) tests administered in May, and report the scores to colleges as specified by the students. The court is scheduled to hear the case at 4 p.m., Friday, July 14.
In late June, the College Board notified SDUSD that the scores would be invalidated, citing seating irregularities when the AP exams were administered to SRHS students. SDUSD officials scrambled to notify students, schedule makeup tests and attempt to provide summertime AP exam study sessions.
While none of the students whose scores were affected were in any way responsible for the way the tests were administered, they were left without valid scores and had to cancel summer plans to make themselves available for retesting. Many students were not able adjust their schedules and will miss testing, if it will be required pending the legal action.
The high burden on students and families affected, as well as the minute degree of perceived irregularities in which the College Board based its decision, were a couple of reasons SDUSD decided to take legal action.
Hopes remain that the restraining order will be approved and additional testing will not be necessary. Nevertheless, SDUSD must continue preparations to administer new tests July 17-20 and Aug. 7-10. Meanwhile, students available to retake the exams must continue to study.
Much has happened since students and parents were notified about the invalidated test scores. SDUSD officials met with SRHS students and their parents to address the issue and listen to concerns during an emotion-filled public meeting July 5 at Marshall Middle School. Much was reported about that meeting, but a few details have not gotten ample attention.
First, it should be noted that SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten opened her brief presentation by issuing an apology.
“I am so sorry for what your students are going through and what they have faced … It’s not fair and it makes us all angry.” she said. “We will put safeguards in place to make sure this will not happen again.”
The audience at the event can be described accurately as being angry but articulate, and it was not without a handful of parents who are attorneys. One described in detail the process that should be taken if SDUSD was going to take legal action. Another said, “It’s either negligence or gross negligence,” threatening to file a class action suit against the school district. Another asked what would happen if the school district is negligent. Yet another asked, “What is the administration’s punishment?”
It didn’t take long for some to look for individuals to blame for the problems in the way the test was administered.
Superintendent Marten explained that the high school’s principal has retired and so has the testing supervisor. SDUSD officials said that an internal investigation was underway, and Area 6 Superintendent Fabiola Bagula stated that the school district is looking into discipline for the proctors. SDUSD uses proctors who are school district employees. While SRHS Principal Ann Menna retired at the end of the school year in June, it was revealed during the public meeting that the district is exploring discipline even though she is retired. All of the possible disciplinary actions made public at the July 5 meeting are exploratory considerations by the school district; nothing has been determined at this time.
District B School Boardmember Kevin Beiser stated that there have been past precedents in which the College Board has found irregularities, but did not force retesting. In addition, Beiser said he knows about a different instance in which there was a problem with SATs a few years ago, but the College Board did not throw them out. Beiser did not go into detail about these instances.
“I believe the College Board overreacted,” Beiser said, adding that the district retained outside legal counsel. “I urged the district to pursue legal action.”
William Lowe of Higgs Fletcher & Mack LLP is the outside attorney hired by SDUSD, and is leading the legal challenges.
“You have my word that we will do everything we can … to right this wrong,” he said. “We have the interest of the children at heart in pursuing this issue.”
Low warned about believing legal action would guarantee that the test scores would be released and retesting would not be required.
“I urge each and every one of you to prepare for the worst,” he said, encouraging students to register to retake the tests.
A special page has been placed on the Scripps Ranch High School website with details and updates regarding the AP retesting this summer: bit.ly/2sRB4Oq