Gunn High School students asked to retake AP exams due to testing errors

More than 160 students affected as of yet; likely more face retesting

UPDATE: By Friday, May 20, the school notified students and parents that there would be close to 700 "retesters" out of about 800 original tests.

A significant number of Gunn High School students will have to retake their Advance Placement (AP) exams after the school discovered seating irregularities during several tests and a distribution error for one.

Students taking several AP exams during the first week of May were seated too close to each other, in violation of the College Board's administration guidelines that require students take the tests sitting at least five feet away from each other, Principal Denise Herrmann wrote in a message to students and parents Tuesday night.

There was also an error in how two different versions of the AP calculus BC exam were distributed. Students sitting at the same tables received the same version of the test, she told the Weekly.

As such, the AP Calculus BC, Biology, Environmental Science, Physics C exams have been invalidated, Herrmann said.

Students' scores will not be reported, and they will have to retake the tests this week and next week.

The school quickly filed an "irregularity report" with the College Board after realizing the error in the calculus exam. Gunn was asked to share detailed information about the schools' testing environments -- such as seating charts, how far apart tables were, and how many student were at each table -- with the the organization's Office of Testing Integrity, Herrmann said. This led to the College Board discovering the issue with students sitting too close to each other in many of the school's large-group tests.

The College Board's "AP Coordinator's Manual," available online, includes a strict seating policy and approved seating plan for AP exams. Students must be seated randomly and cannot choose their own seats. They must be seated directly behind but not directly beside each other. Everyone must face the same direction. Round tables are prohibited for testing.

The College Board allows schools to seat more than one student at a table, but only if all students face the same direction, are seated on the same side of the table and the 5-foot distance between students can be preserved, according to the policy.

Herrmann said in the affected exams, when two students were seated at testing tables, they were seated less than the required 5 feet away from each other.

"While we were hoping that our students would not need to retake their exams, College Board has determined that it is necessary for some of our students to do so," she wrote in her message to families.

All 113 students who took the AP biology test have been affected, as well as 56 out of the 111 students who took the calculus BC exam, according to Herrmann.

Students who decide to not retake their tests will receive a full refund, Herrmann said.

"I accept responsibility for the errors in our testing procedures and apologize for the inconvenience this is causing for our families and students," she wrote to families.

Many students were up in arms Wednesday after hearing the news.

Gunn senior Emily Cao started a petition to make final assignments optional in affected classes. More than 1,000 students supported the online petition as of Wednesday night.

Others said they are planning a sit-in at Tuesday's school board meeting to ask for the board's support in waiving end-of-year assignments for students who have been impacted.

Junior Shannon Yang, who will have to retake the environmental science exam, dubbed the situation "AP Gate."

"I appreciate that we are making sure all rules were followed, but the administration should have taken greater precautions beforehand to make sure students wouldn't have to be inconvenienced like this," she told the Weekly.

Yang also signed the online petition, which asks that all end-of-year assignments or tests with the affected AP exams should be "annulled" and class time should be given over to "re-studying for exams that we should not be having to take."

Many students wrote in comments on the petition that having to re-take the exams is an unwelcome, unanticipated stressor — particularly at the end of the school year, as final assignments and tests pile up.

"These final days of senior year have turned into absolute hell week," senior Lisa Hao wrote. "Instead of being able to relax and enjoy my last days at Gunn, I'm forced to work and stress about both my projects and now my AP tests. I don't believe that the students should be punished for something that was not in their control."

"As someone who's drowning in final projects and essays, I feel a very heavy added burden upon finding out — last minute, too — that I must now retake an AP test from 2 weeks ago," echoed Lisa Wang. "It'd be great to be relieved from some of this workload, especially for seniors who are trying to enjoy their final days at Gunn and need time to breathe."

Herrmann told families that she will be communicating with teachers to "ask for their flexibility as students juggle other end-of-year projects and assignments while studying and sitting for any AP retest."

She told the Weekly that she will be holding a staff meeting to discuss a schoolwide response and teachers will also follow up with individual students who have been affected.

In a message Herrmann sent to students after the meeting, she said teachers brainstormed a list of ways to help reduce impacted students' workload: waive final exam or projects so students have time to study for re-take(s); make the final exam, project, essay, or other assignments optional for students, with those who complete the task being eligible for grade improvement and those who do not having no penalty or advantage; reduce scope, length, or sophistication of exam or project; offer time extensions for projects, essay, quiz, or other assignments; and other "flexible response(s)" for "unique assignments that do not fit into one of these categories."

Gunn teachers also received a list of students whose retest has been confirmed and those whose retest is still pending a final decision from College Board, Herrmann wrote to students, urging them to reach out to teachers directly to work out any concerns.

"I'm very confident that our faculty really wants to focus on student learning and student well-being and that we will find lots of different ways to make sure our students can navigate through this situation being as effective as they can be on their end-of-year obligations as well as performing to their optimum on the AP retests," Herrmann told the Weekly Wednesday morning.

Additional exams are also currently under review by the College Board and could be subject to retesting, including Chemistry, Computer Science A, Spanish Language and Culture, Physics 1, Psychology and English Literature and Composition.

Should the College Board require students to retake these exams, the retesting window will be May 25-27. Herrmann said Gunn will inform students and parents of the College Board's ruling as soon as the school receives it.


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71 people like this
Posted by LMAO
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2016 at 10:30 am

Wow, Gunn administration finds a new and improved way to piss off their students. Though I'd usually love to poke fun at the fact that Gunn can't compare to Paly, I sincerely feel for the students, especially the seniors. This isn't the right way to spend the last two weeks of high school, and there is no way the admin can make up for that. But they must yield some form of compensation.

29 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 10:43 am

Let's call for the resignation of the Principal and staff. It's not like they never held AP tests at Gunn before.


24 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 10:52 am

Our kids take too many tests. We need to have a complete review of the system and get rid of all these individualized tests and merge them into one exam for each subject. This is pathetic at present and no other civilized education system that I know of put their students through this amount of testing on an annual basis.

43 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2016 at 11:07 am

Holy cow, Gunn is our rival but I sympathize with these students! They will be retaking an AP test the week prior to final exams?! How incompetent of Gunn administration and why did they narc on themselves (unless they knew of people cheating)? I thought the principal was trying to curb stress. [Portion removed] this type of additional stress is unconscionable, especially since no one walks out of the AP Bio test feeling good about their performance - it's an excessively difficult test and BC math is no cake-walk either. AP Bio has essay questions so it's not easy to cheat.

Two solutions:

Find a way to postpone the retake to summertime (although ACT is June 11)

Allow final exams to be optional for those who have to retake the AP tests. Their grades should be frozen unless they wish to take the final exams to improve their grades.

30 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 11:38 am

When my son took the national merit scholarship exam the student next to him threw up in the middle of the test. My son then missed the next 5 questions and missed the scholarship by 1 question. They didn't let him retake the exam. Only when the school screws up do they punish the students. Whatever happened to the honor code? It is not the kids fault. Count the damn tests. These are honor students and to basically accuse hundreds of students of cheating without evidence is terrible. What is at stake here? Some student might not have to take a math class in college that they really should be taking. Gunn should fight this.

43 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2016 at 11:39 am

What incompetence from supposedly experienced administrators! Is there any accountability for this totally avoidable mistake?

42 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Professorville
on May 18, 2016 at 11:40 am

I truly hope to see the entire administrative team responsible for this screwup resign. AP tests hold tremendous weight for many students, especially seniors who could be looking at a loss of several thousand dollars worth of college credit due to this error. Students with offers of admission from European universities are at risk of having their acceptances revoked, as many European universities offer conditional acceptance based on future AP scores.

This situation is not an "inconvenience"--it is an absolute mess. I cannot think of another field where workers responsible for the degree of incompetence displayed here would still be employed.

9 people like this
Posted by Student
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 12:25 pm

[Post removed.]

14 people like this
Posted by mom 2
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 18, 2016 at 12:43 pm

[Post removed.]

32 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2016 at 12:48 pm

It is really unfornutane that as a result of these procedural errors some of our seniors may need to re-take one or more AP tests. Even in light of this issue I want to express my support for Dr Herrmann as Gunn's principal. I have been impressed by how she has tackled the real crisis we have in our community; we should all support her in those efforts.

As to the AP tests, our students (my son included) take way too many AP classes. Somehow we, as a community, have created this expectation that our kids need to take all these AP classes, in addition to straight As in the rest of them, be the best in the sport they play and hopefully and instrument too. This is not normal, not healthy, and it doesn't lead to success. It might lead to a top college, but we all know that is not right end goal.

So regarding these AP tests our kids may need to re-take, maybe an option is not to re-take them. To just say "it is not the end of the world, there is more to life than AP tests and grades." I don't know what the impact is of not taking the test for every kid, but for my son we believe is negligible. So my advise to him is "forget about it, move on."

25 people like this
Posted by Blix
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Blix is a registered user.

Hey, it's the Gunn administration's "bad"--shame and blame on THEM!

Leave the kids alone!

59 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Dad
a resident of Ventura
on May 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm

This is an outrage; my son has to miss his Physics field trip to make up an AP test he already completed a week ago because Gunn admin is unable to follow directions. Gunn has been proctoring AP exams for decades, yet there were so many issues this year, 100% to the expense of our overwhelmingly stressed students. Some students are only receiving 3 days notice, which is incredibly insufficient. They need more than that to study, and because of this they are at a disadvantage to students who had competent proctors the first time around. What happened to reducing stress for students? It's insufficient to simply make finals optional for only the classes that require re-takes because most AP classes had their finals weeks ago, and projects are necessary for many students to raise their grades. All finals at Gunn should be optional to students who have to re-take exams.

50 people like this
Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Gunn administration reported themselves in an attempt to save their own jobs by maintaining integrity, but at the expense of the students' mental health. This mistake was a result of the admin's laziness and neglect, since directions on how to proctor the exams were distributed, and it's unfair that students get the backlash.

48 people like this
Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Honestly, most kids at gunn do not like any of the changes the new administration has made. They are constantly saying they are trying to promote students health, reduce stress and so on. But action speak louder than words. Having good PR won't fix everything ! So many teachers are leaving next year because of the administration simply ignoring their voices, Time and time again they ignore the students and build stress in our lives, Now, I'm taking the AP biology exam in a 3 day notice??!? Do you know how weeks I spent studying for that test in complete zombie mode?! Honestly, just stop. I'm so done with this school.

2 people like this
Posted by Awwww
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2016 at 1:27 pm

[Post removed.]

43 people like this
Posted by Be brave enuogh to say No
a resident of Los Altos
on May 18, 2016 at 1:27 pm

You don't HAVE to take the test. You do not HAVE to chase what your parents say is of value. You do not HAVE to waste so much of your life dealing with fear and stress. I did it when I was in one of the local high schools and I'm a much better person for it. I also didn't end up in the streets like some may have fears of if they do not make it into Stanford.
Take control, break free. It's your LIFE!

12 people like this
Posted by graduating
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2016 at 1:28 pm

APs and the Gunn principal are not the best of friends.

Awhile back Gunn's principal was interviewed by the Oracle and, just a few months into her new job, she was claiming that "there has been a lot of support shown from students, parents and teachers for the limitation of Advanced placement courses.” After the interview, the reporter surveyed many in the Gunn community and, lo and behold, found that they were NOT mostly supportive, suggesting that the one showing "a lot of support" for limiting APs was the principal.

15 people like this
Posted by @Awww
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Yah, its sort of like if the IRS said you had to redo your taxes because they botched things up. I'm sure you would just suck it up and say "Oh well, stuff happens" without a single word of complaint. I just know you would do that ;)

4 people like this
Posted by Bruce W.
a resident of Monroe Park
on May 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm

[Post removed.]

27 people like this
Posted by Former Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 1:50 pm

I'm with Carlos. Consider not re-taking the test, it may not be worth it.

My two kids took AP classes at Paly, learned a lot, but decided not to take all the AP tests (too much work/stress). They are both college graduates now, out in the working world, and it has not made not one whit of difference in their lives that they skipped a few AP tests back in high school.

While this Gunn fiasco is completely unfortunate and shouldn't have happened, students still have the choice about how to deal with this frustrating, infuriating setback: re-take or not? To my mind, in many cases skipping the re-take would involve relatively small risk and could be a chance to feel the power of taking control of, rather than fall victim to, this total screw-up. Maybe the best choice is to not do the re-take and move on with confidence that, most likely, it will all work out in the end.

That's the conversation I would be having with my kid as a parent. No right answer but definitely an option to discuss and think about.

17 people like this
Posted by Devil's Advocate
a resident of Downtown North
on May 18, 2016 at 1:52 pm

This was a really unfortunate screw-up. But has anyone looked at the upside of this? I know that it's really stressful to have to cram again for an exam, and to cram at the last minute, while you're worrying about finals and final projects. But these Gunn students will benefit from the fact that this is the 2nd time they're taking the exam. They've already seen what the exam looks like, and what kinds of questions will be asked. They've been through the process. They'll (hopefully) be a little more relaxed during the 2nd taking of the exam. Students from other schools might even complain that they didn't have the "option" to re-take the exam. I know it's not a complete win, but there is a small upside to the situation.

39 people like this
Posted by old school
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Easy fix - how about we just eliminate AP courses at both high schools? My friends and I at Paly in the 90's did not take a single AP class and we are all fine. I don't see the big deal...

71 people like this
Posted by Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I am personally affected by this mistake and I have to say, it's awful. Re-studying and retaking tests creates a lot of stress, especially for seniors who have some 6 days left of high school.

The administration messed up. That's true, and its pretty unavoidable. That said, though, the huge amount of criticism that is being piled on them is unwarranted-- they are trying their best to fix the damage. In the email the students received, Dr. Hermann apologized gracefully and accepted the blame. Mistakes happen, and while the admin and especially the proctors should be held accountable, all that can happen at this point is that the students retake the test. In my opinion, the most important thing now is to make sure that the same mistakes don't happen again in the future. Beyond that, the craziness of the regulations surrounding the AP tests are the responsibility of the College Board, not the admin: the school staff can't just reschedule tests or use the honor code to declare the mistakes forgivable. The College Board's regulations are extremely rigid and they don't allow anything that would make any cheating theoretically possible, however unlikely.

Remember, the admin are people too, and it's not reasonable to expect them to never make mistakes. Not all changes at Gunn have been positive, but I know and I hope that others do too that they are trying their best. Nobody was planning this and I am sure that they were not trying to make student stress worse.

6 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2016 at 2:38 pm

@ old school

"All fine" is a matter of interpretation.

How can the EPA and regular lane students compete with AP students?

22 people like this
Posted by Boarder
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Consumer rights organization Americans for Educational Testing Reform (AETR) has criticized College Board for violating its non-profit status through excessive profits and exorbitant executive compensation; nineteen of its executives make more than $300,000 per year, with CEO Gaston Caperton earning $1.3 million in 2009. AETR also claims that College Board is acting unethically by selling test preparation materials, directly lobbying legislators and government officials, and refusing to acknowledge test-taker rights.
Source: wikipedia

41 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2016 at 3:05 pm

They reported it because they had to to avoid the student's grades being invalidated at any point had records been checked. As for AP credit, most colleges, though you can officially use it for placing up a class, have found this does not help the students at college as it is often taught differently there and students who place out find themselves struggling in later classes.
Can we model for our students and community how to respond to a difficult situation? The teachers are working hard to come up with solutions and I know the students are too.
Most of the changes (bell schedule, campus improvements, increased alignment of reporting structures, professional learning groups compulsory for all teaching staff, recognition of multiple forms of achievement, new initiatives aimed at under-performing groups etc.) made are positively affecting a large proportion of students. Scapegoating will not help us move forward together.

55 people like this
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 18, 2016 at 3:16 pm

My first thought is, how could a high school screw up so badly? I mean, having taught AP, I know they publish the guidelines and they are crystal clear! But is it reasonable to believe that there's some desire to sabotage the AP program here? Does not sound likely! Sure, AP pressures contribute to stress. But abolishing AP is not the answer. Neither is demanding the resignation of administrators and coordinators from Gunn. These mess-ups can be corrected.

As for the Paly-Gunn rivalry, give me a break! Two fine high schools, neither is perfect, both give great educations!

For the record, my kids went to Paly, I was not a PA teacher, I'm often appalled at the attacks on the schools coming from local extremists.

Let's be reasonable, folks!

30 people like this
Posted by pamom
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2016 at 3:22 pm

It's hard for me to understand how the basic seating instructions were not followed. AP Testing has been going on for years at Gunn -- it sounds like there were more than one proctor who never knew the AP testing requirements. How did that happen?

14 people like this
Posted by the bright side
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 18, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Taking the test was probably really good practice. the stress sucks, but you have a good chance to do even better the second time. Don't listen to the 'quitter' posters, take it again, and do better than you did last time. If this ends up being the worst bureaucratic screwup in your life, consider yourself blessed.

24 people like this
Posted by jean
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 18, 2016 at 3:36 pm

the rules of the college testing board change every year. I proctored at one of the tests and watched every student for 3 hours. they did not cheat they did not look around. They were sitting 2 to a table, but not 5 ft apart. there are no tables which are longer than 6 ft. This is a big waste of everyones time and will cost the district $$$ to pay for retaking these test.
When there are 250 kids in the gym the entire gym is filled with tables.the school had to bring in tables and chairs so there was one kid/table in order to comply with the rules. I have done this for many years and never have I seen a Gunn kid who looked as if he or she was cheating. These kids are tops and it is a shame the time and money will be spent doing tests over.

21 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 18, 2016 at 4:55 pm

There should be resignations at the top of the Gunn administration for this. If they don"t go honorably, fire them. This is their mess, they should have made it right.

Speaking of APs: my nephew's parents FORBADE HIM TO TAKE ANY APS, because all of the suicide victims at the school he attended had been taking two or more APs at the time of their deaths. He still got into USC! He played two sports, worked during the summers, did volunteer work during the school year. Apparently those had more weight than the APs!

34 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 18, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Let's reward all the administrators with a big salary raise no matter what!

17 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2016 at 6:06 pm

We are supposed to be understanding of 'mistakes' the administration made while administering a test that VERY CLEARLY states the rules.

Very unfortunate, nothing can be done about it now, but I expect more from adults in these positions. This isn't rocket science, it's reading and following instructions something the GUNN administration expects of each and every student in the school.

Nice way to set an example. [Portion removed.]

20 people like this
Posted by been there
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Agree with Marc - they screwed up royally, they should go. These tests have been going on for HALF A CENTURY. It's not a new process.

11 people like this
Posted by Wen
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 6:30 pm

[Post removed.]

28 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2016 at 6:52 pm

This is not the first time that a Gunn proctor messed up the testing protocol and students were required to retest. My son, class of 2013, was shorted 10 minutes on a section of the AP Calc test. The entire class had the option to retake the test or let the score stand. 10 minutes is a long time on a timed test. My son chose not to retake the test. There was no consequence for the proctor who was also a teacher.

I support the students - teachers should waive finals and projects for the impacted students.

19 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2016 at 7:25 pm

When will parents in this town realize that it's the total package that matters, not how academically precocious or tested the kids are. You can have a 4.5+ grade point average and 5 on AP scores and still not get into the most select schools which many people in this town aspire to.

13 people like this
Posted by Pshaw...
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2016 at 8:11 pm

@Jean- if the rules for testing change every year then the administrators need to read the rules every year and strictly adhere to them. Cheating happens- it's ridiculous to infer that cheating is not a problem at "Gunn". Shame on the administrators for being so lax/incompetent and consequently burdening these kids with the retesting. It was totally avoidable and inexcusable.

Like this comment
Posted by parent of young adults
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 18, 2016 at 8:14 pm

[Post removed.]

22 people like this
Posted by Cassie
a resident of Downtown North
on May 18, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Who is minding the store?

What a bunch of clowns.

26 people like this
Posted by Unconscionable
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 9:03 pm

The unbelievable stress this places on students in unconscionable, and given the clear instructions unforgivable. Should resulting desperation set in with these students it is the teaching staff directly responsible. Personally.

Why on earth are we giving 20% raises to these clowns? That was supposedly so that we could get top talent. I call bullshit on this entire fiasco, and I want my Measure A money back!

Rescind the raises!

12 people like this
Posted by geord
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 18, 2016 at 9:14 pm

The national merit scholarship exam is more commonly known as the PSAT, a test that is supposed to be just a practice test for the SAT. The top scorers are eligible for consideration for a national merit scholarship but they have to pass a few more rounds of selection to receive an actual award. AP tests are products of the College Board, the same company that puts out the PSAT and SAT. The schools should switch to the IB program.

44 people like this
Posted by Learning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2016 at 9:28 pm

My kid took AP Advanced biology this year because it was interesting and challenging. Decided not to take the test. Let's face it, no one would care if the APs weren't a way to get a higher GPA. The system has become way too focused on things that have little to do with learning.

10 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 18, 2016 at 10:17 pm

This is a major fiasco by the Principal and the Vice Principal!
The irregularities have been going on at school for 8 days (2-9 May) in many exams without proper administration's supervision and without rectifying it. Since the problem was not rectified immediately as they should have, apparently after 8 days the school notified the College Board RETROACTIVELY and provided them with all the information that led to the invalidation, "hoping that our students would not need to retake their exams"... Really? :(

Learning the rules and realizing the problem only AFTER it happened and then reporting it is about like trying to unfry a fried egg! It certainly did not serve our kids' best interest, it served as someone else's!

For the salary that the school directors receive, they should have learned and applied the AP College Board rules BEFORE the exams were taken and NOT AFTER! [Portion removed.]

They were dodging and evasive, "apologizing for the inconvenience" or otherwise smearing-over the fiasco with nice wording, instead of avoiding this whole fiasco to begin with or at least showing some leadership and really fighting for the kids in an effort to change the decision!

62 people like this
Posted by Lifelong Palo Alto resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 10:49 pm

How interesting and amazing that, out of all the comments on this thread, the most thoughtful and mature comment came from a Gunn student. I am hopeful for the future and applaud "Student" for taking the high road. Perfectly stated and very well done.

18 people like this
Posted by Gunn Principal: Own It
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Gunn Principal: Own It is a registered user.

I am shocked that the Gunn administration would sabotage their own students in this manner. It’s their JOB to know how to administer and proctor an AP test within the strict and stated College Board guidelines. Outrageous. In the real world, in private industry, the Gunn administration would be fired for such incompetence. But of course our school board and pausd just gave teachers and administrators a 16% raise! And now the Gunn Principal is asking the teachers for "flexibility" with students on final projects and exams? The Principal needs to OWN this and set a Gunn school policy instead of laying it on the kids to negotiate with their teachers individually! The teachers have no business deciding what should happen with the students who have to retake their AP tests thanks to the incompetence of the Gunn administration.

42 people like this
Posted by SickOfComplaints
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 19, 2016 at 3:32 am

I am sick of people using any opportunity to bash Gunn. As a parent, I think this is a good opportunity to talk to our children about how life is no always fair, and help them take this in their stride. Are we as parents adding to their stress by reacting as if this were the end of the world? Shouldn't we be role models were we show them how to effectively deal with something that may be less than optimal. For most seniors, the actual score on the AP exam may not matter. If that is the case, the student does not have to take the exam. If it does matter, then this may be a time to talk about how they have already prepared for the exam once, which makes it easier. Have we become a society where we have no resilience whatsoever, and every little thing tips us over the edge?

27 people like this
Posted by Learning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2016 at 5:47 am

I have my own criticisms of PAUSD administration, but think Dr. Herrmann is the best principal they've had at Gunn that I can remember, and find it new and refreshing that she as admin in Palo Alto would apologizr for a mistake and try to take additional steps to reduce student stress rather than digging in. I'm sure she didn't personally proctor the exam. I'm glad to see her setting an example, being open and movng forward to do whatever is possibke.

There aren't that many places you can take those CB exams around here. Gunn was probably faced with a capacity crowd and little time - the proctor may have simply made a choice at the time under circumstances, and now the Gunn principal IS taking responsibility.

All the best to Gunn students. Please remember, whatever happens, it's not as bad as it may seem now. You got to learn a lot about biology, with really smart peers. It's no fun to retake the test, yes it sucks. But it's true that it can be a valiable lesson in life. Whatever you choose to do, see whatever silver lining there is in it and go forward with grace. I probably don't even have to say that - I'm sure students already know.

23 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of another community
on May 19, 2016 at 6:25 am

I was a proctor on those cancelled exams. Nobody cheated. The students were all incredibly focused and did a great job. The seating space errors were less than one foot. The students all deserve a pat on the back for a job well done.

16 people like this
Posted by Learning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2016 at 10:32 am

@James Thurber,
Thank you for your service - but why didn't you ensure the rules were followed? Now the kids have to live with the consequences.

10 people like this
Posted by Suicides
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 19, 2016 at 11:42 am

[Post removed.]

12 people like this
Posted by If
a resident of Community Center
on May 19, 2016 at 12:49 pm

[Post removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Midtown
on May 19, 2016 at 12:53 pm


Hopefully this is the final straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back.

Let's eliminate all AP classes from both high schools, eliminate grades and class rankings and move to a progressive and fair pass/fail only system. We should also eliminate all athletics and music from our public schools because they cause our kids to feel inferior if they are not athletic or musical superstars!

Our kids will thrive in this environment. I hope someone with a legal background will sue the city and school district to make this happen. Our community will be better off for it!

1 person likes this
Posted by is it true?
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Is it true that ALL AP tests have to be redone? That idea has been heard in around the school community today. [Portion removed.]

18 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 19, 2016 at 1:33 pm

No the administration is not all those terrible things, and not they should not go. Students are reading these comments and getting upset and angry by them, causing a hard situation to become enflamed. Please stop the angry banter.
There was a mistake. Short of taking a measuring tape and manually measuring, I can understand how it happened.
Before you lash out and call for resignations (easy to do, hard to follow through) remember that your anger (and I include parents here) affects our community and can lead to pain and stress.

6 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of another community
on May 19, 2016 at 1:52 pm

The proctors all read right from the AP manual and followed the rules as written. The "close in" seating occurred primarily because of limited space and overwhelming numbers of students wishing to take the AP exams. Space / distance violations were approximately six to nine inches - if that.

All the proctors I worked with did an excellent job in all regards. Cheating? None whatsoever. Blame? Good question. The testing schedule is intense and for those students who have to retest I might say: "You've studied and should know your material. The retest should be easily passable. Of course I apologize to all those who must retake these exams. I am truly sorry."

9 people like this
Posted by Learning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm

@James Thurber,
Thank you for providing some clarity and being willing to talk about what happened.

I don't think it was ok to justify what happened as being close enough.
If the rules stated the spacing, and the proctors knew the consequence of not following the rules could be potential retakes of the testing, not following the rules was not ok. What do you think would happen to the kids who took their tests if they said they read the rules, but they didn't follow them because it was close enough? There is a deadline for registering in early May, at least a month before the testing. If there were too many kids for the site, that could have been ascertained, and other locations nearby found for overflow. There are other locations that proctor the AP in the immediate area. In fact, why doesn't the College Board require locations to ascertain the limit of students under their rules before the students even register?

This year may (not sure 100%) be the first year Los Altos stopped offering AP testing. (Or maybe it's SAT subject testing, I'm sorry, I just don't remember now.) If so, then Gunn probably had kids from Los Altos. That's not an excuse, again, if this creates too much crowding at Gunn, that should have been dealt with by the adults prior to the testing.

Given what James Thurber says, it sounds to me like the proctors were put in an untenable position - everyone involved in setting up the testing, including the College Board, bears some responsibility for putting them in the positiono of having to seat that many kids. What were they supposed to do on the day of the testing, turn the kids away?

I think if the College Board does not have a practice of ensuring the facilities can handle the volume of students under their rules, the onus is on them to do some investigation here and let things go if there was no evidence of cheating. The AP exam is several hours long, it is not a minor thing to ask high-achieving students who have other priorities now that the AP was supposed to have been done, to retake it.

That said, the administration of the school bears some responsibility here. I do think calls for people to resign etc are overblown, but I also think administrators really must look at what happened, and how they can be proactive to prevent it from happening again. If my credit card company forgets to send the bill, it doesn't mean I won't get dinged if I don't pay on time. Responsibilities are responsibilities. We need to have a high standard for the sake of our kids. I appreciate that Denise Herrmann was up front, made a sincere apology, and took responsibility. I hope that will include ensuring it doesn't happen again, and that the same high standards will be applied in the future.

Posted by The Real Question
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on May 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

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3 people like this
Posted by is it true
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2016 at 3:05 pm

if throwing others under the bus is taking responsibility, than gunn's principal stepped up. Dr. McGee is mysteriously silent today...disturbing. is it true that all APs are invalid?

36 people like this
Posted by is it true
a resident of Barron Park
on May 19, 2016 at 3:10 pm

"You've studied and should know your material. The retest should be easily passable. Of course I apologize to all those who must retake these exams. I am truly sorry."

Can't even begin to share the heartlessness of this comment. It is at the heart of this community's problem. Just pass it on to the kids....

Easily passable? What world is this? Bizarre even by palo alto's standards...have you no sense of a student's emotional framework at the end of a school year?

10 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 20, 2016 at 11:50 am

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

Friday morning, May 19th

Gunn's students have created a wonderful petition--a plea to restore balance to their end-of-year workloads.

I support this petition. It's at:

Web Link

It's up to our school leadership not only to ensure that AP test-taking conditions are on a level playing field, nationwide, but to ensure that our kids' pursuit of G.P.A's is nationally on a level playing field, too.

In the race our kids are running, both measures are rightly felt to be important for college admissions.

And in this case, requiring students to do "double-duty" at year's end, risking their G.P.A.s at the expense of their AP scores--well, that puts Gunn kids at a competitive disadvantage to other students nationwide.

Happily, our school leaders, who are very sorry to have made these mistakes (and we're all human; we all make mistakes), have a perfect way to put their feelings into action, by granting this petition.

The consciences of teachers, too, shouldn't be forgotten. Their grading practices are almost always decided upon with a keen eye toward fairness, and scores that they might have anticipated giving at the end of the year are always key pieces of the overall grading puzzle.


Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept (1995-2010)
Campaign Coordinator
Save the 2,008 -- creating hope for Palo Alto's high-schoolers

9 people like this
Posted by Teachers NOT Flexible
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 23, 2016 at 12:50 am

Teachers NOT Flexible is a registered user.

What happened to the Gunn teachers being flexible regarding seniors projects and final exams in allowing leniency for those students who have to retake the AP tests? The question was asked in Linsdell's Econ class to which Linsdell replied: That's not an appropriate question." My extremely stressed out son had to not only study for four AP tests but also had to work on his final project and presentation that is due on Monday. Linsdell did not hold off on these projects at all. Shame on you! Bunch of bull promised by the Dr. Hermann and the Gunn teachers!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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