Students who encounter technical problems while submitting their Advanced Placement exams can now email their work as a last resort, the College Board announced as it heads into the second week of administering tests that can count for college credit.
But the new backup plan option will only help students who take the tests on or after May 18. It doesn't apply to students plagued by tech issues last week in the first-ever online and at-home administration of AP exams.
A growing chorus of those students have asked the College Board to let them resubmit their time-stamped work. But the company said Sunday that to protect the integrity of the tests, those students must still plan to take makeup exams.
While a relatively small number of students have experienced technical glitches since the exams began May 11 — about 1% of the approximately 2.2 million AP tests taken so far couldn't be submitted, College Board says — they and their parents have become highly vocal critics.
They've jammed an understaffed customer service line and posted frustrated narratives on the company's Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Almost 20,000 people have signed a petition to let students resubmit their work if they experienced technical difficulties last week. Another asks that College Board let students with registration issues be approved to test for the first time during the makeup exam window in June.
Some parents have hunted down emails for the company's leaders and blasted them for not anticipating the basic technical problems, and for not coming up with immediate solutions. They bemoaned that there wasn't a backup email option for students who tested in the first week.
"Some of us work in tech companies, and I can tell you, it can’t be that hard. That’s why we’re pressing now, please help us," said Ambika Pajjuri, a mother of a 16-year-old in Palo Alto, California, who couldn't take the AP Computer Science exam because of a registration hiccup.
"It's been so frustrating that there's no recourse," she said.
Initially, College Board leaders dismissed many concerns, but they grew more sympathetic by the end of the week.
"Though the vast majority of students were able to submit their responses successfully, we share the deep disappointment of those who weren't," Trevor Packer, who runs the AP at College Board, said Sunday.
He said they were listening closely to those who reported problems, and that starting May 18, students would be offered a secure email to which they could submit their work, if their initial submission for their AP exam was unsuccessful.
The same backup email would be offered on the makeup exams, he said.
The glitches and public relations headache for the nonprofit testing giant has raised questions about how the College Board might roll out an online, at-home version of the SAT college entrance exam come fall. The College Board has promised to offer the exam if high schools remain closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
College Board leaders also say they've already had experience administering the SAT digitally in schools in several states and districts.
"While the idea of at-home SAT testing is new, digital delivery of the test is not," the company said in a statement.
By contrast, AP exams have a 65-year tradition of being administered in schools with paper and pencils and proctors. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the company could have canceled the exams, but because students said they wanted to take the tests, the company sought to figure out how to bring millions of tests online in a matter of weeks, and to safeguard against cheating.
The exams and their integrity are important because if students score high enough, colleges will offer them a semester or even a full year's worth of credit in that subject — all for a $94 exam fee, which is reduced for lower-income students.
Parents of students who will have to test again say their kids have already put in the work on the exams.
And for students who couldn't register at all, they'll have to retain the knowledge for a full year for another shot at taking the exam for college credit — in spring 2021.
Contact Erin Richards at 414-207-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @emrichards.
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