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California School District Sues College Board over AP Test Invalidation

by Rachel Klein, published

California AP controversy Stephen Coburn /

Students, including many recent graduates, from Mills High School had hundreds of AP tests invalidated after a student tip to the College Board prompted the discovery of seating irregularities during exams.

According to College Board standards, test-takers must be separated from each other by at least five feet and cannot face each other. Administrators acknowledged the violations, citing a lack of space in the school.

While the College Board emphasized the fact that they found no evidence of cheating or other student misconduct, they insist that tests must be retaken and that previously awarded scores cannot be considered valid.

, a section on exam security states that "hen testing irregularities occur, the College Board may decline to score the exams of one or more students and it may cancel the scores of one or more students...and do so whether or not the affected students caused the testing irregularities, benefited from them, or engaged in misconduct."

In the 2012-2013 AP Coordinator Manual

Students, parents, and teachers turned to the Internet to share the AP controversy, and the school district has sued the College Board and the Educational Testing Service for the scoring and reporting of exams to 2013 graduates' respective colleges.

Mills is not the first school to experience score invalidation, and legal action in similar situations has not always proved successful.

In 2008, another California high school attempted -- but failed -- to obtain a temporary restraining order against the ETS that would have blocked the retesting of almost 300 students. In that AP controversy, alleged irregularities included improper seating.

The controversy highlights the increasingly consumer-oriented nature of higher education. Most students and parents are upset because they paid for a product -- their AP courses, tests, and scores -- that would fulfill the specific function of obtaining college credits.

While they feel they've been denied an appropriate return on their investment, the College Board states its terms and conditions plainly and repeatedly in the coordinator manual:

"In no event shall the College responsible for students’, test administration personnel’s or schools’ failure to comply with the AP test security and test administration policies and procedures."

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