SCHOOLS

School board will pursue legal action

Parents and Scripps Ranch High School students rallied outside Marshall Middle School in protest of a ruling that invalidated AP exam scores, while San Diego Unified School District officials met with members of the College Board inside. The group was disappointed that the Board would not hear their concerns. (photos by John Gregory)

School board will pursue legal action

The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) voted unanimously Thursday to file legal action against the College Board in an attempt to reinstate Advanced Placement (AP) exam scores for 547 Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) students that it recently ruled invalid due to irregularities during administration of the tests in May. 

It remains to be seen if legal action will proceed through the system swiftly enough to overturn the College Board’s decision on the scores in time to avoid the necessity of retesting, if SDUSD legal maneuvers prevail.   

In spite of a small window of time, the parents of SRHS students and their children who were affected by the College Board’s ruling mobilized, organized, voiced their opinions and did what they could to reverse the decision by the College Board. It’s possible their efforts helped SDUSD trustees and the school district’s legal counsel determine the College Board overreacted to the extent that legal action has a chance of success. The AP scores have been preserved, so there remains a possibility they will be reinstated should the law rule on the side of the school district.   

Just Thursday morning a group of about 35 protestors stood outside Marshall Middle School as SDUSD officials and the College Board met inside. This came the morning after a heated 2 ½-hour public forum about Advance Placement retesting, with San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) officials and a capacity crowd of SRHS parents and students in attendance on Wednesday night inside the middle school.

If the Board’s ruling stands, the students would have to retake the tests if they want to get valid scores. According to the College Board, tables used for the exams were not the correct size and partitions were placed between the students, which is against the rules. However, the students who finished the exams were not at fault in any way.

New AP exams are still scheduled to be administered, pending the outcome of the legal action, with no additional fees to the students. If necessary, the retests will be available in two sessions: July 17-20 and again Aug. 7-10.  

Students who choose to retake their tests must register by Friday, July 7 as soon as possible by sending an e-mail to: acourtney@sandi.net. Use this same e-mail to sign up for future updates regarding the situation, as well as to register for free study sessions. 

More information is available on the SRHS website. Here is a direct link: bit.ly/2uaPgTQ.

The school district has retained William Low as outside law counsel, focusing on this specific situation and preparing for the legal action against the College Board and ETS, the company that provides the exams. SDUSD asks anyone with any information about how the exams were conducted to send information to Low at: wlow@higgslaw.com.

Meanwhile, the students and parents who gathered in the hot sun Thursday morning at Marshall Middle School to protest the decision by the College Board carried signs, occasionally chanted “Save our scores” and expressed their feelings of helplessness and anger. SDUSD officials and the College Board were meeting inside, but did not face the crowd before the meeting began. 

Instead, Rick Novak, former Marshall Middle School principal, spoke to the crowd and did his best to answer questions about the process. Novak has stepped forward to oversee the administration of the retesting this summer, if they will be required. According to one parent, Novak delivered the news to protestors that the College Board representatives at the middle school Thursday morning were only there to help set up the retesting.

During the Wednesday night public meeting, Novak noted that not many students had signed up to retake the exams. He vowed that the procedures for the administration of the retests would be conducted in the proper way. He encouraged students and parents with any questions to contact him either by phone, (858) 549-5504, or by e-mail: rnovak@sandi.net.

While some protestors on Thursday morning misdirected their anger at Novak, others were more reserved while expressing their opinions, understanding that Novak was only there to help. They spoke about their frustrations and described the hardships students faced because of the Board’s ruling.

Steve Skinner said retaking the AP exam this summer is not an option for his son.

Parent Steve Skinner’s son, Luke, will be a senior this year. “Retesting for him is not an option,”Skinner explained. “On Saturday, he goes to the Dominican Republic to do a mission trip to help pregnant mothers down there, and newborn children … The August test, my son’s already signed up for a camp in the Sierras. He’ll be gone for a week.”

Skinner said his son has maintained a 4.5 grade point average his last two semesters at SRHS.

“It’s not uncommon to wake up at 3 a.m. and see his light on and find him asleep in front of his computer,” Skinner said. “He’s losing out on the opportunity to have a lighter course load when he goes to university.” Skinner said he simply wants the students to get their AP exam scores. If that were to happen, “That would be great,” he said.

Hershy Silver questions the school district’s intentions, wondering if it is simply trying to placate the parents.

Hershy Silver, an attorney who works downtown, is the father of Yishai Silver, a SRHS student who took three AP exams that were invalidated. “I saw him at 2 o’clock in the morning, 4 o’clock in the morning, studying all the time,” he said, adding that Yishai is currently studying for SATs.

“If the test scores were reinstated, I’d feel happy and satisfied, even though my Fourth of July was ruined and my son’s Fourth of July holiday was ruined,” he said. “Oh, well. That’s life.” 

While Yishai will retake the exams if he must, Hershy was obviously unhappy how the situation was handled by SDUSD and pondered their intentions, even questioning how two of the parents were chosen during the Wednesday night forum to represent the others at this week’s SDUSD meetings with the College Board. 

“I question how they selected the parents … Did they select strawman parents?” he wondered. “My real query is, was last night (the Wednesday forum) just to placate the public so that the public doesn’t pursue remedies against the (school board) for their negligence in administering the test and causing this debacle and causing hardship to all the students and all the families, or was it legitimately to be able to gain information to negotiate and, if necessary, challenge the College Board in legal action?”

Daniel Cox is a SRHS student who doesn’t think there is adequate time this summer to study for a retest.

Daniel Cox is a student-athlete at SRHS who will be a senior this fall. He took one AP exam that was invalidated, and he is going to attend study sessions in preparation to retake the test. 

“In the middle of my summer I get this call that says your AP scores have been invalidated and I have to take another one,” he said. “So, I have to take time out from my summer, my sports, my vacation to study for this test.” Cox doesn’t feel there is enough time to study for a retest, and said he won’t be happy if he feels he gets a lower score than the one he would have had on his earlier test he took in May. 

“I’ll feel ripped-off because we took the entire year preparing for this test and now we only have a couple of weeks to prepare for it,” he explained. “It’s not fair.”

Patty Stephan said the hypothesis is that students will score lower if they must retest because they will not have as much prep time.

Patty Stephan is the mother of Anna, a SRHS student and competitive swimmer who will be a senior this year. Anna plans to attend study sessions in preparation for the new testing this summer, if needed, but she will be out-of-town Thursday through Sunday the week before her test is scheduled.  

“Six hours, three hours each day is not going to be enough to prep her from when they did it for a whole year in advance,” she said. “The hypothesis is that students will score lower. Most of these students will not have as much prep going into the retake if they choose to do the retake.” 

Tasha Jessup said having students retake the test over the summer is a clear disadvantage.

Tasha Jessup has a daughter who just finished her sophomore year, but will be unavailable for her retest, if needed.

“The College Board says they’re doing this because they don’t want to have kids to have an unfair advantage, but having our kids retake the test over the summer is a clear disadvantage,” Jessup said. “I don’t think they’re correcting a wrong.”

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