School Put on Probation After Students Accused Of Cheating on AP Tests

By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2007

The College Board, which produces Advanced Placement tests, put Severna Park High School on probation after allegations of students cheating on an exam in the spring, Anne Arundel County school officials said yesterday.

The high school can continue administering AP tests but will be closely monitored. The board also banned the instructor involved from ever administering AP tests and ordered the official in charge of the school's AP tests to attend a workshop for AP coordinators.

If improper testing occurs this school year, Severna Park risks being canceled as an AP testing center.

In a statement yesterday, Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said, "We are confident we have rectified the issues that were present at the time."

Putting schools on probation is rare, said Tom Ewing, a spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, which oversees AP testing for the College Board. "Out of all the schools doing testing, less than half of a percent of them are put on probation each year."

The actions are the latest fallout from an AP U.S. history test administered at the school May 11. Students taking the test in the classroom where the cheating is alleged to have occurred say at least one girl broke the plastic wrapping around an essay portion and took an early look at the questions. That student and others were seen in the restroom during the break and during the test looking for answers to the essay questions.

A College Board investigation also found that the proctor in that classroom failed to follow instructions and allowed students to talk and use cellphones.

Forty-two students were forced to retake the test as a result. The three girls who were accused of cheating were not allowed to retake it but were allowed to retain their course grade.

A group of students who said cheating was pervasive at Severna Park organized a schoolwide survey, which found that at least 70 percent of students think a culture of cheating exists. After meeting with the students, then-principal James B. Hamilton agreed to form a committee and create an honor code at the school.

But Hamilton retired over the summer, and it is unclear whether an honor code was created.

The new principal, Jason Dykstra, said he would work with staff members, parents and students "to ensure the culture at Severna Park High School is one of academic integrity."

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