A group of high school students sued the College Entrance Examination Board claiming its advanced placement tests are unfair to teens trapped at home by the coronavirus pandemic without adequate computers or internet connections.
The board, which offers college-level curriculum for courses and exams to high school students, and Educational Testing Services, which administers the advanced placement exams, discriminated against students without sufficient resources, those in remote locations and the disabled, according to a proposed class-action complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court.
"It is unrealistic to think that all students have quiet, private spaces at home in which to test," the students said. "Lower-income students are much more likely to face cramped housing, siblings and parents sharing the same workspace, internet connectivity problems, noisy environments, and less comfortable testing spaces."
The students were joined in the complaint by FairTest, an advocacy group that has been pushing colleges to drop the SAT and ACT as an admissions requirement because the standardized tests are allegedly biased against poor and minority students.
Like most of higher education, standardized college exams have been upended during the pandemic. In-person SAT exams have been canceled and a number of selective schools have made the exams test optional, at least temporarily.
Students take the AP exams often with the hopes of earning college credit. As many as 20% of students were unable to submit their responses through the testing platform in the first three days of the exam, according to the lawsuit. Others couldn't finish their exams or log into the platform at all although they practiced beforehand, according to the complaint.
The College Board said it will contest the lawsuit and expects to prevail. ETS referred a request for comment to the College Board.
Peter Schwartz, general counsel for the College Board, said that almost 3 million AP exams were taken in the first week after the test was redesigned to be taken at home. Students who were unable to successfully submit their exam can still take a makeup and have the opportunity to earn college credit, he said.
"This lawsuit is a PR stunt masquerading as a legal complaint being manufactured by an opportunistic organization that prioritizes media coverage for itself," he said in an emailed statement. "It is wrong factually and baseless legally."
Watching videos of students who tried to submit their tests as the timer clicked down to zero are heartbreaking, said David Rion, Director of College Guidance at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn.
"The College Board says somewhat cavalierly that students who weren't able to submit can retake the test in a few weeks, and that's true," Rion said in an email. "But it completely overlooks the in-the-moment trauma of having technical issues during an important test."
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