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Marlborough reacts to changes to the AP policy due to COVID-19

Photo courtesy of lecroitg

Marlborough has modified its Advanced Placement exam policy for the 2020-2021 school year to permit students to opt out of any AP exam due to the adjustments required for online learning. Previously all 7th through 11th graders were required to take the exam for every AP class they were enrolled in to receive the “AP” designation on their transcript, and 12th graders were only allowed to opt out of one exam, and even then only if they were taking multiple.

The College Board is offering three administrations of the exam: one from May 3 to 17, offered only at school, and an additional two that can be taken at school or at home (May 18 to 28 and June 1 to 11). Marlborough is giving students the opportunity to choose during which administration they would like to take their exam, and will be offering in-person exams in May.

According to an email sent to students enrolled in AP classes, the policy was motivated by AP students’ already-apparent engagement and success “in a virtual format, completing assessments, assignments and roundtable discussions, and actively participating in class discussions.” In other words, students have received a good education in the topic regardless of whether they take the exam.

The policy appears popular among teachers. In a UV survey to AP teachers, 100% of respondents supported the policy. English Department Head Deborah Banner, who teaches AP English Literature, believes the unique circumstances of this year’s online learning warranted a policy change.

“This year has been stressful on everyone,” Banner said. “It seems fair to offer students the option to take the test, but not to require it, so that everyone can make their own decisions about how best to manage their own stress levels.”

Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, most teachers still believe their students are prepared for AP exams. According to the UV survey, 67% of respondents believed their students were as prepared as years past, while only 11% believed they were less prepared.

Students who responded to the UV’s survey were less convinced. One anonymous respondent believed that months of at-home learning would make taking AP exams more difficult.

“I don’t feel prepared to take an in-person exam when I’ve only taken exams in the comfort of my own home for the past year,” the student wrote. 

According to Marlborough’s email, different exams will have different options for taking them. While some will have options for taking exams at home, others, including the World Language exams, must be taken in-person and at school.

Among student respondents, 33.3% are opting out of all their exams this year, while the remaining 66.7% are taking all their exams. Elise ‘22 is taking all her exams because she sees taking exams as no-risk.

“If I do well, I can submit them to colleges, and if I do poorly, no one has to see them. There isn’t a downside to me taking them,” Elise said.

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