Tickets to prom or a test for possibly no credit? A choice that students in Advanced Placement classes at Ridgefield High School haven\u2019t been allowed to make because of the school\u2019s mandatory AP testing policy, which costs students $96 per exam. After the subject of AP testing fees was brought up at a Board of Education meeting March 28, board members started to take a closer look at the school\u2019s policy. \u201cYou can\u2019t have the \u2018so called\u2019 best classes in the school have a price of admission,\u201d said Nicholas Patterson, a senior at RHS. Patterson, editor and founder of the school paper \u201cThe Ridgefielder,\u201d wrote an article about the decline of thought-provoking and engaging lessons in favor of College Board (the institution that creates and administers AP tests, as well as the SATs) standards for essays and other course work in a majority of AP courses. He also met with Principal Stacey Gross to discuss mandatory AP testing \u2014 and the associated costs. In response, the school sent an email to parents explaining that students were strongly encouraged to take the test and fulfill the commitment they agreed to along with their parents at the beginning of the year. \u201cIt is our expectation that all of our students will fulfill the requirements of the course and complete all that they have pledged to do. There is not an option to \u2018opt out,\u2019\u201d read the letter. \u201cIf you, as a parent, choose to refuse to allow your child to take the test \u2014 a decision with which we do not agree \u2014 that is certainly your prerogative and right.\u201d $15 for a blank test Fran Walton, chairwoman of the Board of Education, told The Press that students have the ability to opt out and be charged a $15 fee to return the blank test to the College Board. \u201cI think the principal has been very clear,\u201d she said. \u201cA returned test has a cost of $15, and the other money will be returned to you.\u201d Patterson thinks that\u2019s a fair solution for this year, although he says the school is not encouraging it. \u201cIn future years, from the get-go, students should be able to choose to get the test sent or not,\u201d said Patterson. In the email, the administration\u00a0encouraged students to take the test, and outlined the advantages of receiving college credit for it. \u201cColleges want to see the level of a student\u2019s commitment to education, and we strongly encourage fulfillment of course requirements to completion,\u201d it said. \u00a0 Motivation At the March meeting, Gross said that some teachers were concerned that having an optional test at the end of the year would detract from student performance and attention during the span of the school year. Patterson doesn\u2019t agree with this notion. \u201cIf a student has no tangible benefits from taking the exam, their motivation for taking their exam or not is equal because they don\u2019t care about the grade,\u201d he said. \u201cIs it really worth making students pay $100 per class just for the idea that they\u2019ll pay more attention?\u201d During his high school career, he has taken 11 AP courses \u2014 six of which he\u2019s taking this year. He\u2019s taken all AP tests so far, but now, with the option to opt out and save $81, he\u2019s decided to take only the two that the University of Chicago \u2014 where he will be attending college in the fall \u2014 accepts as college credit. Advice Walton understands that not all higher education institutions accept all passing test scores as credit, but she says it\u2019s still worth taking the tests because students don\u2019t know for sure where their college careers will take them. \u201cPeople\u2019s circumstances change. Say you decide to transfer \u2014 something happened \u2014 those APs may have helped you in some way,\u201d she said \u201cThat\u2019s what I find perplexing, that people wouldn\u2019t think that there is a benefit to it.\u201d Patterson said his advice to any sophomores and juniors who don\u2019t know where they want to go to college is to take every AP test available to them, but for seniors, he said, the situation is different. \u201cIf you\u2019re a senior, and you know where you\u2019re going to college and you know with certainty this test isn\u2019t getting you anything but a stupid number, why waste your money on it?\u201d He added that the cost of a single test could represent a month of utilities payments for a college student. Rankings Ridgefield High School has one of the highest rankings in the state, according to U.S News & World Report. Senior AP test participation is one of the categories that gives RHS its high placement \u2014 No. 4 in the state. \u201cOur rankings are in part based on AP testing,\u201d said Walton. \u201cIf you look at the criteria, one of them is the number of seniors and the number of test takers \u2014 not what score they get, but how many take the test,\u201d she said. \u201cLast year\u2019s class did very well \u2014 a large percentage took the test. This current year could change the rankings.\u201d At what cost? Patterson agrees that AP testing has been a way for the high school to obtain favorable rankings, but he wonders at what cost. \u201cRidgefield is the only school in both DRG A and DRG B to mandate that students take the test. That\u2019s a very easy way to inflate our rankings,\u201d he said. \u201cIf we just get the maximum amount of students to take the test and not concern ourselves with the qualities of the class, that\u2019s an easy way to get good rankings.\u201d Next steps Walton said the high school will be looking further into the AP testing policy over the summer. Patterson hopes that the tests will eventually become optional, and thinks that being able to opt out is a good first step. \u201cI think we need to continue our conversations,\u201d said Walton.