Students, families file federal lawsuit against College Board over technical problems with at-home AP exams

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Students and families filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against the New-York based College Board, over technical problems with at-home Advanced Placement exams taken during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some students reported issues such as not being able to submit responses on the AP exams, while others couldn’t even log on to the testing platform to take the rigorous tests, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in California.

The families, as well as The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), a national organization promoting fair standardized testing, are plaintiffs in the class action suit.

Families are seeking damages “in an amount that exceeds $500 million, with the exact amount to be proven at trial,” the lawsuit states, and “for punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish defendants and to deter them from engaging in wrongful conduct in the future.”

Advanced Placement has been a mainstay for decades at high schools across the country. Students take the tough courses as well as millions of AP exams, which can give college credits to students who pass the exams, helping to lower their tuition bills.

The nonprofit College Board offers at least three dozen AP exams ranging from U.S. History to chemistry, macroeconomics and Spanish language and culture.

Fees for the exams have put millions in the College Board’s coffers. The lawsuit, for example, said, “In 2018, the College Board earned over $480 million dollars from its AP program alone.”

“Students who relied on AP scores for the financial benefits of college placement and credit experienced technical glitches, timing issues, and a heightened level of anxiety and distress,” the 46-page lawsuit reads. “Reports of anywhere between 5% and 20% of examinees were unable to submit their responses through the at-home testing platform during the first three days of AP exams.”

FairTest said it documented students’ bad experiences and that the online exams were not ready for administering to students.

“The College Board was warned about many potential access, technology and security problems by FairTest and other groups that had documented crashes when other computerized tests were introduced. Nevertheless, the Board rushed ‘untested’ AP computerized exams into the marketplace in order to preserve its largest revenue-generating program when they could no longer administer in-school tests,” Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s interim executive director, said in an email to the Florida Phoenix.

The College Board breached its contract, was negligent, and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other issues, according to the lawsuit.

A College Board spokesman has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Students took AP online exams in an at-home testing environment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many students wanted to do so, according to the College Board.

“We made the decision to offer the 2020 AP Exams online because students overwhelmingly told us they wanted the chance to test,” the College Board said Tuesday in an email update to the media.

Schaeffer also noted that “fundamental design problems, which should have been detected if the rollout of the new testing technology had not been so rushed, resulted in tens of thousands of students not being able to submit their answers.”

“This is not a ‘glitch’ but a systematic ‘failure,'” he said.