Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Mills student Gavin Wong, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Christine Noma and Paul Seto, parents of AP students, participated in a press conference outside Mills High School Friday morning.
Two local state legislators, hoping to get some justice and prevent an event similar to the one this past summer in which 641 Advanced Placement tests scores were thrown out because of seating irregularities, have proposed bills to clarify the law.
“It was bureaucracy run amuck,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who introduced a bill yesterday which offers various solutions to prevent a similar situation, including requiring retesting happen earlier, requiring schools fill out seating charts and redefining how the test administrators decide to cancel tests.
Senior Gavin Wong, one of the 286 students whose scores were invalidated because of “complete disruption” of the tests, said the legislation means a lot to him and other students, some of whom have gone off to college and struggled to get the classes they wanted because of missing AP credits. Following the incident, the district lost a lawsuit brought against the AP test distributors College Board.
“We gathered to fight College Board’s hasty decision,” he said. “We grew optimistic, but lost the case and our original scores will be forever sealed. ETS stated there was no evidence of cheating and it was completely unreasonable to cancel them.”
The winner of Hill’s “Oughta Be A Law … Or Not” contest’s proposed law would require that if test scores are canceled for testing irregularities, then the testing agency must provide a retest within 30 days of the original test date so the relevant material is still fresh in their minds. In the case of Mills, students weren’t offered to retest until August 2013. It would redefine complete disruption of a test — one of the legal bases on which the Mills test scores were invalidated in May 2013 — to mean only a natural disaster, national emergency, school fire or fire alarm.
This all stems from a student complaint sent via email about seat irregularities that took place during the AP examination. In July 2013, the San Mateo Union High School District reported College Board invalidated tests in 11 AP subjects taken because, during the testing, Mills placed some students at tables sitting across from each other. The College Board regulation manual states this may lead to invalidations since the ideal seating arrangement advises that students sit in individual desks, facing the same direction. There was no suspicion of cheating, stated Educational Testing Service, the College Board’s security provider that administers the AP Exams.
Hill’s proposed law also requires that seating charts be filled out for each test administered. Current law, and the manual, do not require seating charts. By requiring seating charts, the legislation ensures that any canceled test scores due to seating irregularities are limited to students who are seated improperly, the bill states.
Mills PTO President and AP parent Christine Noma originally contacted Hill in fall 2013 to help bring the legislation about.
“We thought this isn’t right, it ought to be a law,” she said. “There is ambiguity in the law and I can understand the dilemma, but how can they talk about a disruption of 650 exams?”
Mills parent Paul Seto, a former Millbrae councilman, said the debacle was a very stressful for his entire family, but he’s fortunate they have advocates for their cause now.
“We were looking for a compromise and that route was not successful,” he said. “There needs to be a certain level of accountability so [future] students won’t have to be in the same boat.”
In addition to Hill’s bill, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, also introduced a bill that would require standardized test providers to release invalidated test scores to colleges when there is no evidence of student misconduct. In releasing the scores, the test provider must explain why it decided to invalidate them and to specify there was no student misconduct. Colleges and universities would have the discretion of accepting the scores given the totality of each student’s academic record.
“I wish we could right the wrong that was done, but we can prevent another injustice,” Mullin said.
Hill noted with the struggles and stresses high school students already have in modern competitive California, there shouldn’t be another reason for students to stress.
This year more than 200 bill ideas were submitted to Hill’s office.
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