UPPER MARLBORO – The student body of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) underwent quite a test last week as they fought to restore countywide funding for Advanced Placement (AP) tests. On Sept. 26, PGCPS sent a letter home to families of students in AP classes, notifying them of the school system’s decision to discontinue […]
UPPER MARLBORO – The student body of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) underwent quite a test last week as they fought to restore countywide funding for Advanced Placement (AP) tests.
On Sept. 26, PGCPS sent a letter home to families of students in AP classes, notifying them of the school system’s decision to discontinue paying for the end-of-the-year test. The new policy would have applied to every student not receiving free or reduced lunch.
But that decision was retracted last week after a large campaign headed by Student Member of the Board of Education Juwan Blocker and countywide student leadership.
“I was very disappointed,” Blocker said of the discontinuance of funding for AP testing. “To be honest with you, I thought it was unfair. I believe that children were being punished for the negligence of (school administration).”
AP tests typically cost $93 per test, with some students across Prince George’s County taking on multiple AP courses per year. PGCPS is one of just a few school systems in the country that covers the testing fees for all students who take AP courses.
Despite initially deciding to no longer pay for the AP testing fees, PGCPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell sent another letter out on Oct. 13 detailing PGCPS’s decision to reinstate funding for testing fees.
“Since our Sept. 26 letter regarding changes to Advanced Placement Exam fees, we have heard from many of you expressing concern about the timing of the notification and Prince George’s County Public Schools’ commitment to the AP program,” Maxwell wrote. “We understand your concerns and we do not want any family to feel anxiety over paying for AP Exams. For the 2016-17 school year, PGCPS will continue the practice of covering AP Exam fees for all students.”
Maxwell said the school system will have to make adjustments to the PGCPS budget to accommodate the change, but said he believes it “is the right thing to do.”
The school system will revisit the decision for the next school year.
Although PGCPS did ultimately change its stance on the matter, it wasn’t without a large effort from the student body.
Aaliyah Hennington, president of the Parkdale High School student government, helped organize the protest and fight against the PGCPS administration. She, along with hundreds of students across the county, shared a petition online and powered an email and tweet movement to ask PGCPS to reconsider.
Hennington said the school system should have informed students and their families of the possible change before they signed up for AP courses in the previous year.
“When I had the chance to pick my schedule last year, we weren’t notified of this. I put three AP classes on my schedule. I only got one but if I had three, that’s $93 dollars for each one,” she said.
The new test fees, added to the already growing list of senior fees, would had led to a sum Hennington’s family would not have been able to pay, and she knows it is worse for other families.
“I don’t think we were considered when the decision was made – absolutely not,” she said. “People in my school take four, five AP classes. That’s $93 per class. That’s almost $500. That’s not just a random expense that you can throw at us.”
Hennington called the AP program in PGCPS “brilliant” and the only classes “I actually learned something in,” but said if students have to pay the test fees it will discourage them from taking advanced classes – a thought, Blocker said, that is counterintuitive to PGCPS’s efforts to make students “college and career ready.”
“I found it kind of ironic. You want us to be college and career ready but by them possibly gutting funding for AP, they weren’t preparing students for advanced courses,” Blocker said.
In the future, both Hennington and Blocker said they want the school system to include students and their families in the discussion, especially when the outcome could end up costing families hundreds of dollars.
And PGCPS heard the students loud and clear.
“We will revisit this practice for the 2017-18 school year, allowing students and families adequate time to plan and adjust, if needed,” Maxwell said.