Students of Henry M. Gunn High School were notified on May 16 by school administrators of mandatory Advanced Placement (AP) test retakes due to violations of College Board regulations made by the test proctors and administration. The exam retakes started on May 19 and will end on May 27.
College Board requested retakes for tests in the Calculus BC, Biology, Environmental Science, Physics C, Chemistry, Computer Science A, Spanish Language and Culture, Physics 1, Psychology and English Literature and Composition AP exam subjects.
“We had a two-step error in our procedures,” Gunn principal Denise Herrmann said. “The first step was an error in the distribution of some of the testing booklets in the calculus exams. When we investigated that with College Board, it also led to an irregularity in the distance between how students are seated when they’re seated two to a table.”
After filing an irregularity report to College Board, the affected tests were invalidated and Gunn administration immediately emailed the students informing them of the necessary retakes.
According to Herrmann, Gunn had used the seating arrangements and testing practices for several years. However, College Board officials only discovered the failure to maintain the 60-inch College Board required distance between test-takers this year during the investigation of the testing booklets.
Students’ studies and daily routines have been negatively affected by the scheduling of the AP test retakes, which coincide with final assignments and exams.
“For me specifically, I have to retake the AP Chemistry test. Unfortunately, the AP [Chemistry] test was the first test on the first day, so I found out that I had to retake it two weeks later. I forgot a lot of the material, so I had to restudy. The problem is my retake is definitely going to be worse than my first one. There simply isn’t enough time to make up the amount I need to restudy.”
Tone Yao Lee, Gunn junior
Several hours after the email was sent out, Gunn senior Emily Cao created an online petition calling for the annulment of final assignments. The petition has since received nearly 1,400 signatures from Gunn high school students, as well as students from nearby high schools and parents.
“I decided to make the petition because I felt that it was unfair for students to take finals and finish final assignments and projects along with having to retake a lot of AP tests,” Cao said. “I felt that it was too big of a workload that a lot of students couldn’t manage and it just caused a lot of unnecessary stress. I said that it was the school’s error that the tests were not properly proctored, so we should take out the time that would be heavily invested in final projects and assignments to study for their retake exam.”
The nearly 1,400 signatures in support of the petition were quickly brought to the administration’s attention; consequently, a staff meeting was held to encourage teacher flexibility to combat student stress.
“I definitely think that Emily’s petition had an effect on the teacher’s decision,” Gunn junior Kosei Tanaka said. “Everyone was so [upset] about [the mistake] and they were all complaining on Facebook, so the Student Executive Council had a meeting with all the staff members to talk about this.”
At the staff meeting on May 18, teachers and administrators decided not to create a blanket policy, but rather to encourage teachers to be flexible with waiving assignments and giving extensions to help alleviate student stress.
Although Cao’s petition had originally called for the removal of all final assignments, she eventually amended the objective to turning in assignments on an optional basis.
“I definitely think that [the administration] made an error, but all humans make mistakes, and I think I’ve gotten over a lot of the anger and frustration that came out of having a lot of students to retake AP exams. I think right now [the Gunn administration] has done the best that they possibly could. They can’t cancel all assignments and make them full credit because that is slightly unrealistic, but they have been making teachers be a lot more flexible in regards to reducing student stress, and I feel that that is the best thing that they could possibly do at the moment.”
Emily Cao, Gunn senior
However, despite efforts made by Gunn’s administration to be more flexible with projects, some students believe that teachers have not sufficiently relieved student workloads.
“Teachers that are teaching [the AP classes that require retakes] should have stopped their regular course plan and switched into reviewing AP study material,” Lee said. “Students should not have to spend a lot of their own time to restudy when the mistake was completely with the school. Some of my teachers are making assignments optional. Unfortunately, these teachers aren’t even the teachers that teach the AP class. I would have liked to seen more sympathy from the AP teachers.”
Herrmann wishes to continue finding ways to relieve stress caused by the retakes by working together with both teachers and students.
“I know that this is a very stressful situation and I know how hard [the students] work,” Herrmann said. “I’m doing everything I can to help them be as resilient as possible, and I believe in them.”