College Board implements earlier registration deadline for AP tests

Michael Han, Caroline Lobel, and Vivian Kuang

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College Board has updated AP test registration policies for the 2019-20 school year aimed at increasing test registration and pass rates, including a new online class code system and a fall registration deadline.

This year, all AP students are required to join their class on AP Classroom, a website where test registration occurs and College Board provides course resources. At Dougherty, the new registration deadline for the 2019-2020 school year was Sept. 27, compared to March in previous years.

“The biggest change is the registration date,” said Ms. Lauren Falkner, AP coordinator and Vice Principal at Dougherty Valley. “[College Board] had done a bunch of research, and they found that they had more people follow through with completing the AP courses if the registration started in the fall. So that’s what prompted them to make that change.”

College Board argues that the earlier registration deadline is beneficial because it incentivizes students to remain motivated, especially underrepresented student populations. 

“We’ve heard words like ‘engaged,’ ‘confident’ and ‘less likely to give up’ when students register in the fall — and that commitment translates into more students taking the exam and earning college credit,” the College Board website stated.

In a fall registration pilot with 180,000 students across 800 schools, College Board saw increased test participation, especially among low-income students. Another pilot in 2017-18 with 40,000 students saw an increase in passing scores (3 or higher) amongst 20 percent of low-income students.

However, critics argue that the earlier deadline does not improve test outcomes. An analysis of the College Board data by TotalRegistration finds that though there were 3,141 additional low-income test takers at pilot schools, only 742 (23.6%) of the new low-income test takers earned passing scores. TotalRegistration argues that this data shows that the earlier deadline prematurely “coerced” students into taking the test, creating a burden for low income families.

These sentiments have gained traction amongst students and counselors around the country. A Change.org petition started by Wisconsin high school counselor Jennifer Wander called uponCollege Board to reverse the registration changes, and has garnered over 120,000 signatures to date. Some at Dougherty also agree with her stance.

“I’m not too sure about which classes I really need the AP test for,” senior Richard Deng said. “I ended up signing up for all of mine, but I wish I had had more time to think.”

Falkner asserts that performance on AP exams in May will not be adversely affected by early registration.

“I don’t think [early registration will] affect [a student’s] performance on the exams at all, because you’re still going through the class,” Falkner said. “It might affect registrations and how many exams people sign up, but in terms of their performance on their exams, are you telling me that because of a fall [registration] date, you’re not going to prepare for your AP exams?” 

In particular, some believe that the new deadline creates inflexibility for seniors applying for college.

“If the deadline is in February or March, people who get into college Early Decision know where they’re going to go, so they know what requirements AP tests can help them fulfill,” senior Glori Zheng said. “As of right now, some people don’t even have their college list finalized, so they don’t know what AP tests can help them.”

The updated guidelines also require classroom codes from AP teachers to register, creating confusion for students who want to take an AP test without enrolling in the course. These independent study students have to rely on external sources such as parent group chats on the social media platform WeChat to receive registration information.

“You have to know the right people to get information. If my mom hadn’t joined that WeChat group, I never would’ve gotten any information about AP Chinese,” said Zheng, who plans to register for AP Chinese independently. “I feel like administration didn’t share a lot of information with us and no students knew how it worked.”

Ultimately, the new registration policies are a significant shift for students, teachers and administrators.

“DV is the largest school [in the district] when it comes to AP testing,” Falkner explained. “I know that the changes have been tough, and I’ve done my job to communicate with your families, your teachers, and you students. But I’m always open to feedback or looking at making the process better. And I’ve already started taking notes to make changes for next year to make this an easier process.”