AP test scoring changes, Md. to waive future fees

By By Becky Price, Arts Editor

Every year, ambitious high school students enroll in numerous Advanced Placement (AP) courses with hopes of gaining college credit by passing the exam. Starting this year, however, the highly coveted college exams will be graded differently due to impending modifications in the AP program.

The College Board announced Aug. 16 that beginning this May, AP exams will be scored with no point deductions for incorrect answers. Essentially, students will not be penalized for wrong answers.

“Existing research confirms that both formula scoring, in which points are deducted for incorrect answers, and rights scoring, in which no points are deducted for incorrect answers, are valid scoring procedures,” Jennifer Topiel, a representative from College Board, said. “The AP program’s change [from formula] to rights scoring enables us to more efficiently make many changes to the AP program at once.”

According to Topiel, the “rights-only” system will make grading easier, and will make it easier to compare the tests collectively.

 Additionally, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced his plan for the “AP Access and Success” program that will waive the $86 fee required to take an AP exam for all Maryland students and cut the $15 PSAT fee for high school juniors. The program is aimed to give those students who otherwise could not afford the $86 fee the opportunity to take the AP exams.

“[O’Malley] is proposing that the state direct $3 million of state education funds to cover the cost of AP exams,” Brain Feldman, a Maryland Delegate, said. “The money ultimately comes from Maryland taxpayers as do virtually all funds in Maryland’s general fund operating budget.”

O’Malley’s plan will be phased out over a two-year period, starting with the 2011-2012 school year. In the first year Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science and Physics exams will be covered by the state’s budget, no matter what economic status the student is in. By the 2012-2013 year, all remaining AP exams will be covered by state expenses.

According to the College Board’s 2009 AP Report to the Nation, Maryland leads the nation in the number of public school students achieving success, with 23.4 percent scoring a three or higher on an AP exam. The number of Maryland students participating in AP coursework has increased by more than 50 percent since 2004.

The cut fee may lead to increased enrollment in AP exams and courses in less privileged areas of Maryland, but it might have only a minimal effect on the CHS cluster.

“I don’t think that students and parents look at the costs of the tests before they enroll in a class,” college and career center coordinator Luana Zimmerman said. “We assist students who can’t pay for the tests. Ninety-eight to 99 percent of our students enrolled in an AP take the exam.”