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 Change.org 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.