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No Room for Trip In AP Test Schedule

By Jay Mathews
Thursday, January 6, 2005; Page VA06

Dear Extra Credit,

During my freshman year, my parents traveled to Sweden for business and I went with them. The trip fell during Advanced Placement testing week, and I missed my computer science test. I wasn't eligible for a makeup. Why not? Wasn't my situation a reasonable one for missing the test?

Ben Pollack

_____About This Feature_____
Figuring out what is going on in your schools is not always easy. The accounts children bring home, though colorful, may not be entirely accurate. Notes sent home get lost. Neighborhood chatter is unreliable.

To help, Post staff writer Jay Mathews, who has been covering schools for 22 years, will answer a reader question each week -- or maybe two or three if they are easy ones.

Please send your questions -- along with your name, e-mail or postal address and telephone number -- to Extra Credit, The Washingtom Post, 51 Monroe St., Suite 500, Rockville, Md. 20850. Or send e-mail to extracredit@washpost.com.

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Fairfax Station

Senior, Thomas Jefferson High School

for Science and Technology

It depends on how harmful it would have been for your parents to leave you at home while they went on their business trip.

If you were the star of their vaudeville act and the family's income depended on your being there, or if you had been paroled to their custody after that spray-painting incident and the court insisted on you not being out of their sight, you might have a chance of making your case.

But I wouldn't bet on it. The College Board officials who run the AP program have the impression that many schools fear that AP students, a clever bunch to begin with, will interpret anything but the strictest makeup test policy as an open invitation to indulge in a few weeks of extra studying before they take the three-hour exam.

Trevor Packer, executive director of the AP program, said there are three general types of late-testing requests. Only the first two have some chance of a favorable response.

1. You are in a coma from one too many viewings of "The OC -- The Complete First Season" DVD. If a doctor confirms that you are not medically capable of taking the test on the scheduled exam day, or there is some natural disaster or other catastrophe that makes your presence impossible, "we encourage, but cannot require, a school to provide a makeup testing administration for the students, for which there is no surcharge," Packer said.

2. You are the star shot putter on the first Jefferson track team ever to make the state finals. An important athletic, or even academic, competition that interferes with an AP test may also work. Again, Packer said, the College Board encourages but does not require that the school give a makeup test, and in these cases it charges an extra $40 per test in hopes of discouraging all but the most sincere requests.

3. You've always wanted to see Sweden and your parents said you could go with them. Sorry, no makeup test. "For a request in which a student chooses an event that is not a school-related academic or athletic event, at [the] schools' requests we do not permit late testing," Packer said.

There are all kinds of situations at the margins of these three rules that might or might not get you a makeup, depending on how much irretrievable damage would be done if you were forced to take the test on the regular day. But many schools are tough on this, since the AP testing days are known months in advance and families should be able to schedule their trips around them.

"We just completed a survey of AP coordinators and found that a considerable proportion still request that we not do away with late-testing prohibitions, for fear that without such prohibitions, students and parents would take advantage of the opportunity for a few additional days of study time and would 'force' AP coordinators to run not just one AP exam administration but a makeup session for each AP subject -- turning coordination of the AP exam administration into a four-week rather than two-week campaign for these AP coordinators each May," Packer said.

Please send your questions, along with your name, e-mail or postal address and telephone number to Extra Credit, The Washington Post, 4020 University Dr., Suite 220, Fairfax, Va. 22030. Or e-mail extracredit@washpost.com.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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