No More “Paying for Bumps”

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By: Meilan Solly
AP testing season is over for the year, but next year’s students will see some changes in the AP testing process.
Before 2009, Loudoun County Public Schools paid for AP fees for students who chose to take the tests. This practice was discontinued because of budget issues, so now students and their families are responsible for the fee. As a result, Loudoun students spend about $900,000 to $1.4 million on AP tests every year.
The 2011-2012 LCPS policy on AP exams states that if students pass an AP course and take the exam, they earn a 1.0 GPA bump. Next year, students will only have to pass an AP class in order to get the 1.0 bump. Students will pay $80 to take the test and potentially earn college credit, but taking the test will no longer be tied to the GPA bump.
Sophomore John Dooney thinks this new change is “good for people who aren’t financially stable [but] truly want the bump.” He cites the example that if someone takes 7 or 8 APs and then gets a score of 1 on an exam, the new policy ensures they still get credit for their hard work in the class.
Morgan Rushin,senior, “likes the [new policy] because I’m not good at taking tests, so [now] I know I’ll get my bump.” Parent Susan Sedlazek says, “The downside of this approach is that students will probably take fewer AP exams in the future, which will affect our standings in certain rankings.” She would have preferred “for the county to cover the costs of these tests, but given the current budget constraints, it isn’t surprising that the School Board opted to simply unlink the AP tests from the grades.” 
There are several possible reasons why the AP fee policy was changed. One may be that the School Board wants to meet the terms of a statement issued on April 19th by the Virginia Attorney General’s office. This document, written by Opinions Counsel Stephen R. McCullough, concludes “the local school board cannot charge a fee for taking the advanced placement test when the student has taken the advanced placement course and taking the test is a condition for receiving an increase in the student’s grade point average.” Ms. Burnett, guidance counselor, adds that the policy might have been changed because some people couldn’t afford the tests, especially given the current state of the economy.
Ms. Burnett previously worked at schools in California. She says that a lot of students there take AP courses despite the fact that many California colleges do not accept them as exemptions. “[They are a] good way to figure out what students really learned,” she adds. Sedlazek reinforces this idea, saying, “It’s good for students to challenge themselves by taking advanced classes, and folks in the college admissions office [think so too.]”