A temporary restraining order meant to return Advanced Placement Test scores from the College Board to Mills High School students was denied last Friday.
Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, the firm representing the San Mateo Union High School District, filed a lawsuit against College Board and Educational Testing Service, their test security provider that administers the AP Exams, on Aug. 5. The suit, originally filed in San Mateo County Superior Court, stated there is no evidence of misconduct by the students and no evidence that the testing irregularities materially affected the test scores. The main objective of the suit was to get the 641 scores returned to the students.
Still, the U.S. District Court concluded Friday that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits or that they would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of the temporary restraining order.
“Defendants, and the College Board especially, have a strong interest in maintaining the validity of the test scores that are reported,” wrote U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong. “Forcing defendants to validate AP exam scores resulting from improperly administered tests would place them in the untenable position of having to act contrary to their obligations in the AP Bulletin, and also would result in colleges and universities being less likely to rely on the integrity of such scores.”
The official statement from Armstrong goes on to say “the risk that test scores were subject to invalidation in the event of testing irregularities was fully disclosed to MHS students and their parents, the School District and MHS officials, in the AP Manual, the AP Bulletin and the AP Participation Form. For their part, Defendants investigated the MHS student’s allegations of seating irregularities and confirmed through discussions with MHS officials that such irregularities did, in fact, occur.”
The case moved from San Mateo County Superior Court to federal court because College Board and ETS feared bias against New York corporations in a California court of law.
College Board offered students the opportunity to retake the AP exams this summer, but some were staunchly against the retake based on principle.
Jennifer Kao, one of the Mills AP students who is now attending University of California at Berkeley, helped lead the fight to get scores back, said leadership has mostly been passed on to parents. She didn’t retake the six AP tests that were thrown out this past spring and she said she is going to be retaking a lot of classes.
“I know for a fact that I didn’t cheat; they can’t just arbitrarily treat schools differently,” Kao said, adding that she and others are looking into emergency legislation for an appeals process to get scores back through the political route. “We worked so hard for those AP tests. What kind of lesson are they [College Board] trying to teach us students? They’re just trying to protect their own interests.”
Back on July 17, the district reported that ETS invalidated tests in 11 AP subjects taken by 286 students this past May because of seating irregularities. The Mills investigation stemmed from a complaint issued by a student on May 13.
Mills High School parent and former Millbrae councilman Paul Seto said the parents haven’t formally discussed further actions at this point, and with some of the students already off at college, the parents really haven’t gotten together. He said he himself needs some time to think a lawsuit, or other further action, through.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105