COVID prompts Compassionate AP Credit

Cal Lutheran first university to enact 2020 policy

“We recognize this is not a normal school year, these were not normal AP courses, and these were not normal AP tests,” said Cal Lutheran sociology professor Adina Nack, who advocated for the policy along with Registrar Maria Kohnke.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – June 4, 2020) In a policy believed to be the first in the nation, California Lutheran University is giving all students who took Advanced Placement classes and registered for exams in spring 2020 the maximum credit, regardless of scores or test completion, to account for COVID-19-related challenges.

The university’s Compassionate AP Credit Policy gives students who document they took an AP class and registered for the associated May or June test the course credit Cal Lutheran typically awards to those receiving a score of 5, the highest possible.

The university made the exception for this year’s exams because of the hardships caused by the pandemic. The College Board revamped AP exams to be given online, but many students reported problems submitting their tests. On May 20, a class action lawsuit was filed against the College Board on behalf of high school students who had trouble submitting their answers because of technical problems. In addition, high school teachers had to quickly move to virtual instruction with little preparation when schools were closed. Some students lacked access to internet and computers. Health concerns, job losses and cutbacks, and other stressors related to COVID-19 also posed problems for many families.

“We recognize this is not a normal school year, these were not normal AP courses, and these were not normal AP tests,” said Cal Lutheran sociology professor Adina Nack, who advocated for the policy along with Registrar Maria Kohnke. “University officials decided to be as compassionate and equitable as possible.”

About one-third of the students admitted to Cal Lutheran will be affected by the policy. More than 100 students requested the exception in the first five days after it was announced May 29. Almost 40% of 2019 high school graduates took at least one AP exam, according to the College Board. Nearly 60% scored a 3 or higher. A 3 is the minimum score that most often qualifies students to earn college credit. Many times, 4s and higher are required. Higher scores can qualify students for more credit.

Kohnke wanted to give the maximum credit to all students who registered to take the exam, not just those who could show they scored 3s or higher, to cover those unable to submit their exams or who encountered significant challenges because of lack of access to the required technology.

“We believe our policy best takes into account the range of public health impacts on the most marginalized high school students in the nation, many of whom didn’t have the technology or home environments needed to succeed on the 2020 online AP exams,” said Nack, a medical sociologist. “We were thinking about students who had homes without computers or internet service and those who may have been dealing with COVID-19 impacts to their families that left them without quiet places and times when they could focus on studying after their campuses were shut down.”

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