Teachers adjust grades based on AP scores

Thomas Bun, Staff Writer

Advanced Placement (AP) classes are mostly structured to prepare students for the AP exam in hopes of obtaining college credits for their efforts. Those who don’t attempt the exam, either because of the cost or because they simply don’t feel prepared, leave some teachers to resort to other incentives to motivate students to take the test.

Knowing that AP students are concerned about their grades and their GPA, some teachers offer a grade change based on the AP exam score a student earns. AP European History teacher Johnathan Clemons has made it a policy to change students’ grades based on exam results. If a student scores a C- or higher in the class and passes the AP exam — meaning a score of three or higher — then Clemons changes the student’s grades for both semesters to an A.

“College Board has decided that the AP test is the ultimate authority of ‘did you know the content or not,’ so I feel like if you pass the AP test, you’ve shown that you know the content at a college level; which is what the AP test is supposed to measure,” Clemons said.

Although the exchange of college credits for passing the exam is enough for some students, others simply take the exam in hopes of a GPA bump.

“I have a higher pass rate because students are more motivated to pass the test,” Clemons said. “College credits are a good motivation, but for the here and now, people are more motivated by their grade, so it’s a way of making the class difficult but still allowing that carrot at the end [of the stick] where you can still get an A if you are able to pass.”

Other teachers offer a less lenient approach but still have room for grade changes. AP Chemistry teacher Han Nguyen’s policy allows for changing one semester grade of the student’s choice if a score of four or five is earned on the AP exam.

“If you think about the scores [in terms of grades], a five would be an A, a four would be a B, a three is a C, a two is a D and a 1 being an F,” Nguyen said. “The standard for a three is pretty low, at least in AP Chemistry because all you need for a three in AP chemistry is to get 50 percent of the questions right, and I’m not going to give someone an A for getting 50 percent of the questions right.”

Nguyen does not require that students take his final if they take the AP exam, as he formats the final based on previous AP exams.

“I want to require all people to take the AP exam because regardless of whether you pass or fail, it gives an example of a high stakes test, and if you pass, you can get college credits for it, which to me outweighs [the students] trying to duck out on the final,” Nguyen said.

Other teachers simply don’t believe in changing grades for AP scores, as they see the effort put into one test and the effort put into an entire year of a class work as two separate entities.

“Basically, those who got fours and fives [on the exam] had A’s in the class, so it was really not an issue,” AP Psychology teacher Lana Gentry said. “My class is not test-based, so I’ve always felt that you need to do the work.”

Although teachers have differing opinions on how they reward their students with their efforts put into the exam, some staff members say that there should be a more uniform system for the rewards given to students based on AP scores.

“I think it’s a fair deal that teachers actually meet to come up with [a system of grade changing] that they can actually agree on to make it more fair for students,” Asst. Principal

Dennis To said. “If you ask me, some sort of uniform rule that applies to everyone is the fairest way to do it.”

However, administrators and counselors do not have any authority when it comes to grade changing for students.

“Even if… there was a discretion between AP grades and a student brought it up to [me] or to [their] counselor, the only thing we can do is talk to the teacher and try to find out the reason for the grade,” To said.