Vass, HHS administration adjust for AP testing in spring 

Maya Waid, Editor-in-Chief

With many uncertainties surrounding the future of in-school  learning and extracurricular activities, Assistant Principal Kris Vass has worked closely with school administration to come up with the best possible option to offer Advanced Placement testing in the coming months. 

In May of 2020, College Board adjusted AP tests to be available to students in a shortened time frame completely online. Since some schools are able to attend in person, College Board has rolled out multiple options for schools to select from to ensure the safety of their students. Vass and HHS administrators are working to select the most appropriate option for students. 

“[The type of testing] is a decision that the high school makes, but right now it’s looking like we are going to do a combination of [a few options]. We want students to have a say and have a voice, but ultimately we need to decide what is best for the majority of students. There is some leeway in there for some of these tests though. For example, if a family would choose not to send their child in for COVID-19 concerns, they would not be forced [out of taking the test. Instead] they can choose to take the test from home on the computer. Where that gets hard is that there are a handful of tests [such as] the language tests or music theory which have to be done in person,” Vass said. “The College Board is not providing an online version for those tests due to the nature of those tests. For example, in music theory if a student has access to [musical] instruments at home that provides an unfair advantage so they require that it is in person. For language exams the concern is with access to google translate.”

One major concern for students who primarily take AP classes is that colleges may wave or look past their scores on the exams if they are modified. However, universities at the moment are planning on accepting scores as normal for 2021 enrollment. Junior Luke Tao is currently taking five AP courses. For Tao, he has taken eleven AP courses which means that although he is used to a rigorous course load, he also had to adjust to the unusual circumstances. 

“I would say that it is definitely harder to stay motivated. My schedule is incredibly strange so some days I can wake up super late and some days I can’t. It makes it feel like it is always the weekend for me so I don’t feel super motivated [to do work]. On some days I have four classes and then other days I have one class. I have one class from HHS, one class from Virtual Virginia, and four classes from Governor’s school,” Tao said. 

When College Board rolled out testing options, Vass sent out a survey to AP students which allowed them to express their testing preferences. For Tao, he prefers the latest testing time slot to allow for the most review time. 

“Personally, I hope that it is the last testing date because it would give me more time to study. I also prefer online rather than in person for two reasons. I have someone in my family who is high-risk so I would rather not risk that and secondly I also have bad handwriting so I could get a lot more in with the ability to type,” Tao said. “One of my teachers said that he plans to help us review for the exam so I am not too worried about that one. For my other first semester class I am just planning on reviewing like any other class. I don’t think it is all that different other than the amount of content.”

In addition to concerns regarding students safety, HHS is also preparing to accommodate for Wi-Fi issues at home and provide an option for students to access tests. 

“If Wi-Fi is a concern, coming into the building to test is always an option. The at home tests all start at the same time nationwide. For us in Harrisonburg, the early tests would be starting at noon and the later tests start at four. We can always offer up the school building if there are internet concerns but at home we will continue to do what we have been doing. For students who don’t have reliable Wi-Fi the school will keep providing mobile hotspots and different things,” Vass said. 

In a typical year, AP courses are only offered year long. Due to the unforeseen circumstances after the global pandemic hit, all HHS courses were adjusted so that they could be offered semester long. This presented challenges for AP teachers and students to ensure they were taught all of the content in a shorter amount of time.

“The decision was made to go to semester [classes] given all of the significant changes we figured it would be beneficial to students and teachers to just have four classes at a time. Teachers had to decide if they wanted an AP class first semester, which had more instructional days according to the calendar which gives them more time with their class, or offer their class second semester which gives them fewer days but was closer to the exam,” Vass said.

To help provide a solution to this challenge, administrators have set up a review schedule to ensure students have access to material taught in the first semester to properly prepare for their exam. 

“Going into the second semester, we have put together a plan with AP teachers to give them slotted review time. They can utilize office hours after school and also Wednesday’s. The way it works is that it is divided by content area so that a student wouldn’t have to choose which of their AP’s to review. We have also set it up so that Canvas will be available for AP students and teachers to access review content for the rest of the year. College Board has also pushed out daily videos which I know some teachers are utilizing. My advice to the teachers has been to use what the College Board is pushing out in the videos because that is most likely where the exam is going to come from. I definitely encourage both students and teachers to watch those videos for review purposes,” Vass said. 

For students such as Tao who balance a heavy workload, the amount of time that they will need to dedicate to review is a challenging aspect of AP courses. 

“[The hardest part is] just that you have to review a lot more. [Since they are semester-long rather than year-long] students might forget more since it will have been longer since they were in their [AP] class. Also, it is a much faster pace because it is not stretched out across the entire year,” Tao said. “We have the same number of classes [everyday] so the only difference is that you have less time to do homework. Other than that it’s just the gap between first semester and testing.”

In Tao’s opinion, devoting time to learn and familiarize yourself with questions that students have not experienced before is a key test taking strategy to doing well on AP exams. 

“I have only taken one full length exam, but I would definitely recommend looking at what types of questions are on there and practicing the question types that you have not seen before. Especially something like a DBQ because most students don’t see that prior to taking an AP,” Tao said. 

Although it will be a challenge, Vass is extremely confident in not only the AP students, but also AP teachers to ensure that students will adapt and continue to perform well on AP exams. 

“[COVID-19] and the pandemic in general has made us adjust in so many ways. We had to get out of our normal routines and practices and this is no different. Is it ideal to take a course that ends in January and then tests in May? Not really. [However] I have tremendous faith in our teachers and students that they can [perform well],” Vass said. “HHS students perform above average on AP state and national exams already. Everyone across the country taking an AP course is in a similar situation, we are all in this together so the playing field is as level as it can be. I am confident that we will pull through, our students are resilient, our teachers are creative and we will get through it.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email