ShareThis Page

District weighs AP test charges

| Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

The Armstrong School District could implement a fee for students who underperform on Advanced Placement course tests and several new classes next school year.

The district's administration recommended students who score a 2 or lower, out of a possible 5, on Advance Placement tests pay a fee of $15, according to Shauna Braun-Zukowski, coordinator of curriculum, instruction, assessment and accountability.

Armstrong School District pays for students to take AP tests. Each exam costs $89 per student, Braun-Zukowski said.

The courses, which are weighted, allow students to earn college credit while still in high school.

“We'd still pay the bulk of the exam, but we had some students in past years that would not take the exams seriously,” Braun-Zukowski said. “Some students were not even opening the test booklet.

“And $15 isn't a lot, but at least it would encourage them to put some effort into the exam and course. It's not a large number of students who do it, but it is frustrating.”

She did not supply information on how many students take the AP tests each year, but said no more than about 10 percent of students score a 2 or lower.

Board member Larry Robb said he opposes the fee for both ethical and logistical reasons.

“We should pay for it, but basing the fee on the outcome of their exam, it could be a real hassle collecting,” Robb said. “It's going to be a lot of work, and a fee based on test scores could discourage students from taking these classes.

“For $15, I just don't think it's worth it.”

Braun-Zukowski acknowledged collecting the fee would be difficult once the scores were released. She suggested collecting the fee in advance and reimbursing students once scores are released.

Other districts base the cost of exams on performance, including Pine-Richland School District, which gives students half of the exam fee back if they score a 3 or higher, according to Braun-Zukowski.

South Butler School District reimburses the entire cost of the tests if students score a 3 or higher, she said.

New courses sought

In addition to the fee, administrators hope to add about a dozen courses at the secondary level.

They include American Geo-Political Conflict, three computer programming classes, World History, Studio Art 9 and STEAM Art, which incorporates elements of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, Braun-Zukowski said.

None of the classes require any additional staff members, she said, but several could cost the district money to establish.

For example, STEAM Art requires the district to buy about 60 iPads, an iPad cart and licenses for Adobe Creative Cloud Software. That totals $66,000.

The equipment, she added, could be used in other classrooms.

In all, the additional classes — which would be offered at Ford City, Kittanning and West Shamokin high schools — would cost the district about $84,500, she said.

Braun-Zukowski said grants may be available to help cover the costs of the STEAM Art requirements.

“We started with 104 courses for our students, and, with what we've presented, we could be up to 119 courses for students in ninth through 12th grades,” Braun-Zukowski said. “That means we've seen a 13 percent growth over the last three years.”

The board plans to vote on the AP exam fee and adding the new courses on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in West Hills Intermediate School.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.