Education

Students Can Now Opt Out Of Placement Tests So Schools Save Money

Students in Fairfax County, Virginia, can now opt out of placement tests for college-level courses so schools can save money, according to a Monday report.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) plans to save $600,000, or approximately a fraction of 1 percent of its budget, by not requiring students to take the Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) placement tests, reported The Washington Post.

Jane Strauss, chair of the Fairfax school board, said that Virginia prohibited the district from mandating test-taking unless it also paid all of the fees. The school system will bear the cost of the first six IB or AP exams per student.

“Regardless of what score was earned on the AP Exam(s), students who took an AP Exam were more likely to graduate [college] in four years or fewer than students who took no AP Exams,” reported a College Board study sampling over a half million students.

Other school districts in northern Virginia, namely Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, and Prince William, still require AP and IB test-taking and pay all of the associated fees.

“Allowing students to opt out of the exam could create two different levels of expectations in the same classroom and can have the effect of hollowing out the depth and rigor of the course experience,” Kenneth Bassett, Prince William’s director of student learning, said to WaPo.

Scott Brabrand, Fairfax’s new superintendent, told WaPo he would ask the school board to review its decision if the county saw a huge drop in test-taking.

While AP and IB exams typically cost $93 and $116, respectively, low-income students nationwide typically pay under $15 for the exams, with College Board, schools, and federal and/or state subsidies accounting for the rest of the amount, reported Education Week.

“In the past decade, [Fairfax County Public Schools] has had to make more than half a billion dollars in budget reductions,” John Torre,  the school district’s public information officer, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The final decision to pay for the first six AP or IB exams a student takes, was intended to remove potential financial barriers to participation on a significant number of exams, while still raising revenue to offset a $50 million budget deficit.”

Six IB tests, which can constitute the six tests a student chooses for the school district (FCPS) to fund, are necessary to obtain the IB diploma, Torre noted.

“FCPS has not changed our belief that students enrolled in an AP or IB course should participate in the exam,” continued Torre to TheDCNF. “Our academic advising will include strong messaging about the benefits of participation and courses will be designed to ensure that students are prepared to be successful.”

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