Why are AP students at Ridgefield High School paying $96 for a test they might not need?

The Board of Education addressed its problems with pay-to-learn fees — which include costs for AP testing and a bevy of other district-wide fees, such as school supplies, sports activities, field trips, and parking (only for high school students with a driver’s license) — at a March 28 meeting when Superintendent Karen Baldwin presented a draft list of what student families could incur financially during the school year.

One payment in particular — $96 for AP testing — struck a chord with board members.

“Why are we charging for AP testing? Is there any course at our school that we require students to pay for?” asked board member Doug Silver.

“If you are a high-achievement student, you pay to go to your classes, but if you’re not, you don’t have to pay. How is that fair?”

High school principal Stacey Gross said that most of the money from AP payments goes to the College Board, while whatever remains is used to pay for extra monitoring staff — both RHS faculty and College Board employees — during testing.

Silver said he wasn’t advocating that the school should absorb the cost of the test, but said it should be optional for students.

He said that young learners who take AP classes but don’t want to take the test should have the option to opt out to avoid paying the fee.

Gross said teachers at the high school are very much in favor of having mandatory AP testing.

“The staff thinks as far as motivation,” she said, “it affects the entire environment in the class if they’re not focused on taking the test.”

Despite the teachers’ stance, Gross said that making the test optional is something that can be looked into further.

Chairwoman Fran Walton said the $96 test cost could be viewed as an investment.  

“If you take the test, you can use the results of the test at college to place into credits,” she said.

A standard four-credit course costs around $3,000 per semester, according to board member Margaret Stamatis.

Ivy League colleges don't accept AP tests in lieu of taking the course.

And that’s why board member David Cordisco said he would like a board subcommittee to meet with high school leadership and explore the possibility of making the tests optional.

“Doug makes a good point — only charge them if they want to take the test,” Cordisco said. “There’s no expense to us at that point, but we should take this into subcommittee.”

An earlier version of this article stated David Cordisco would like to form a new subcommittee and that not all colleges accepted AP credit.