Tag: Adithi Soogoor

Why November? The Truth Behind College Board’s Decision

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photo: Adithi Soogoor

For the world of secondary education, the College Board’s seemingly innocent February 6 press release contained a bombshell. In it, the educational non-profit announced it would be making two major changes to the Advanced Placement (AP) program for the 2019-20 school year. The first, giving teachers access to new online resources designed to help them better prepare their students for the AP exams, elicited largely positive responses from educators. The second, however, instantly sparked nationwide criticism.

This second change involved moving exam registration from the spring to the fall. Students must now sign up for AP exams by November 15, instead of March, to only pay the base exam fee of $94. Students who sign up for exams between November 16 and March 13 will have to pay a $40 late fee on top of the base exam fee. If a student changes their mind and decides to cancel an exam after November 15, they will still have to pay $40 of the $94 base exam fee.

According to the College Board, the decision to adopt fall registration was inspired by policies already in place in some AP schools. The College Board claims that some form of fall registration is already a “best practice” at over half of schools offering AP courses. However, it is unclear what specific policies the College Board considers fall registration or how strict these policies must be to be considered a “best practice.”

As the College Board explains, they learned that students in the schools which already offered fall registration were “more engaged and less likely to give up.” This increased commitment, the organization says, meant they were “more likely to earn a score that [would] translate to college credit.”

During the 2017-18 school year, the College Board conducted a pilot program to study the effects of fall registration and its alleged benefits. The organization implemented fall registration, among other changes, at 14 school districts across four different states. Combined, over 100 schools and 40,000 students participated in the pilot.

Although the College Board has provided minimal information on the nature of the pilot program or its results, it has relied heavily on anecdotes and highly limited data from the pilot program to support its claims. A video on the “2019-20 Changes to AP” page of the group’s website, for instance, shows teachers and students from pilot schools describing how they were initially skeptical of fall registration but came to realize that, as one teacher put it, “[It] really makes a difference.” Next to the video, the College Board explains that, “We’ve heard words like, ‘engaged,’ ‘confident’ and ‘less likely to give up’ when students register in the fall-and that commitment translates into more students taking the exam and earning college credit.”

Beyond anecdotal evidence, College Board boasts that, “Scores of 3+ increased across student groups” in their pilot program. A 3 is considered a passing score on the exams and is typically the minimum score required by colleges to earn credit. What College Board puts the greatest emphasis on, however, is the effect that fall registration had on groups it deems as traditionally underrepresented in the AP program. According to the College Board, underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans), low-income students, and female STEM students fall under this category. The College Board claims that while fall registration “made a difference across the board,” it “had the strongest effect” on these students. Accompanying this claim– often in graph form– is essentially the only data from the pilot program which the College Board has currently made readily available to the public.

Chart contributed by: the College Board

The data, which shows the percentage increases in scores of 3+ across different student groups, reveals that underrepresented groups saw significantly higher relative increases in passing scores than their counterparts. The total number of scores of 3 or higher increased by 12% for underrepresented minority students compared to 5% for White/Asian students. Likewise, passing scores increased by 20% for low-income students and only 4% for moderate/high-income students. The same trend occurred with female STEM students, who achieved a 14% increase compared to a 5% increase for their male counterparts.

These results indicate that fall registration will help these student groups, who have historically had lower participation and passing rates, move closer to equitable representation within the AP Program. In fact, the College Board touts that, during one year of fall registration, “schools sped up the work of AP Equity– the share of AP Exam registrations for students of color– by seven years.”

However, the minimal data which College Board is currently providing, and corresponding claims it makes, are meaningless when taken out of the context of the rest of the pilot program data. Earlier this year, the College Board itself released somewhat more detailed data from the pilot program on its website. Although the College Board has taken down that web page since then, screenshots exist and the graphs which the College Board used on the page are still hosted on its website. These graphs displayed the raw number of total exam takers, underrepresented minority exam takers, low-income exam takers, and passing scores by low-income students within the pilot districts for the 2016, 2017, and 2018 AP exams.

This data, which the College Board has taken down for unknown reasons, is essential for putting the minimal data which they are currently trumpeting into context. This deleted data shows that while the total number of low-income exam takers increased by 33.5% from 2016-17 to 2017-18, the total number of moderate/high-income exam takers only increased by 3.9%. Given this fact, the graph showing a 20% increase in passing scores for low-income students compared to a 4% increase for moderate/high-income students is somewhat misleading. The number of low-income students taking exams simply increased at a much higher rate than did the number of moderate/high-income students taking exams. As a result, the number of exams passed by low-income students increased at a much higher rate as well. Relative to the increases in exam takers, low-income students did not see nearly as significant of an increase in performance compared to moderate/high-income students as the 20%-4% comparison suggests at first glance. This pattern is repeated with underrepresented minorities and non-underrepresented minorities as well.

To gain a more complete understanding of the program’s results, The Wingspan tracked down five of the fourteen school districts who participated in the 2017-18 pilot. Through public information requests, The Wingspan obtained previously unpublished AP data from four of these districts: Klein ISD in Texas, San Antonio ISD in Texas, Amarillo ISD in Texas, and Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. The Wingspan would like to note that, despite The Wingspan’s best efforts, the data obtained for San Antonio ISD is limited to 11th and 12th graders.

Overall, the total number of exams taken increased by 7.7% across these four districts in the pilot’s first year. Since the total number of passing scores increased by a nearly identical 8%, the overall passing rate only increased by a marginal 0.11%.

For the three districts which reported results by economic status, the number of exams taken by students considered economically disadvantaged/eligible for free or reduced lunches (Eco-Dis/FRL) increased by 12.2%. Meanwhile, the total number of passing scores for these students increased by 17%. This translates to a 0.8% increase in pass rate. In comparison, the total number of exams taken, total number of exams passed, and pass rate for students not economically disadvantaged/not eligible for free or reduced lunches (Non-Eco Dis/FRL) increased by 2.2%, 6.2%, and 2.0%, respectively.

Across all four districts, the total number of exams taken by African American and Latino students increased by 10.36%. At the same time, the total number of exams passed increased by 15.6% and the pass rate increased by 0.99%. For all other students, the number of exams taken, number of exams passed, and pass rate increased by only 5.8%, 5.9%, and 0.05%, respectively.

In the aggregate, the detailed data obtained by The Wingspan appears to tell the same story as the College Board’s deleted data. It seems that the changes implemented by the pilot did increase equity with regards to access. Underrepresented groups saw a much higher percentage increase in exams taken than their overrepresented counterparts. However, the pilot appears to have done little to close the performance gap between underrepresented and overrepresented groups. In the three districts which reported results by economic status, the passing rate for Non-Eco Dis/FRL students was 30.8% higher than the passing rate for Eco Dis/FRL students in the 2016-17 school year. In the pilot’s first year, this gap actually increased to 32.0%.

It is important to note that the results of the pilot program varied significantly between districts. How the pilot affected an individual district often differed from how the pilot affected the four districts as a whole. Although the number of exams taken by Eco Dis/FRL students increased by 12.2% overall, this number increased by a staggering 116% in Amarillo ISD and actually declined by 0.68% in Jefferson County. Furthermore, despite the gap in passing rates between African American/Latino students and other students decreasing by 0.94% overall, this gap increased in three of the four districts.

These differences in results shed light on a frustrating aspect of analyzing the pilot program data: there are simply so many variables at play. The previous AP registration policy, the cost paid for exams by low-income students, the quality of AP instruction, and any changes in enrollment all influenced how a district’s AP results changed during the pilot program. Since these factors significantly vary by state and school district throughout the country, one should not expect the universal adoption of fall registration to have a universal effect.

Further complicating a true evaluation of the results of the pilot program is the nature of the pilot program itself. As it turns out, instituting a fall registration deadline was just one of many changes implemented by the College Board as part of their 2017-18 AP Pilot. Most notably, all participating school districts received access to a new support system of online resources. According to the “AP Full Year Model Implementation Plan” attached to the pilot participation agreement between the College Board and Jefferson County Public Schools, these resources were meant to enable, “yearlong, college-level practice and instruction in AP classrooms.” Highlighting these resources was an AP Question Bank available for all AP courses. The pilot agreement describes this as a “comprehensive repository of AP released and practice exam questions indexed to unit content and skills, including reports highlighting student knowledge and skill achievements and gaps.” Teachers could use these questions to build custom quizzes for each unit, students could practice with them online or on paper, and administrators could access “year-round performance and usage data.” Furthermore, AP Calculus and World History teachers received access to additional resources including scoring training, unit quizzes, and student-directed practice.

Although the pilot schools and their teachers were free to use these resources as they wished, the College Board provided them with intent and wanted them to be utilized. In fact, the aforementioned implementation plan, written by the College Board, states that, “The College Board encourages District’s utilization of these resources.” The plan explains that this will, “enable the College Board to learn about usage patterns.”

While it is impossible to quantify the exact impact of these resources, it is highly likely that they increased student performance to some extent. Kevin Rasco, District Coordinator of Advanced Placement for San Antonio ISD, described these resources as being “very heavily used,” especially for Calculus and World History. In Amarillo ISD, Director of Counseling/College and Career Readiness Tracy Morman said the resources were utilized to varying extents by different teachers but on the whole were “very beneficial.” Both Morman and Rasco emphasized how the resources allowed teachers and students to track students’ progress throughout the year. This gave students added confidence and teachers the ability to assess the effectiveness of their instruction throughout the course.

Megan Shadid, an AP Economics and World History teacher from one of the pilot districts, echoed these sentiments in an interview with USA Today. “It’s been a game changer for me in terms of how I teach,” she explained.

If the College Board wanted to “further study the effects of moving exam registration to the fall,” as their website says, why introduce another variable into the study in the form of these highly beneficial online resources? Even ignoring all of the other factors influencing a district’s AP exam results, it is now impossible to say to what extent the results of the pilot are indicative of the effects of fall registration and to what extent they are indicative of the benefits of the online resources. Given that this uncertainty was created by the way the College Board designed the pilot, it is curious that they do not mention their inclusion of the online resources in practically any of the information they have released about the program.

Despite questions about College Board’s representation of the pilot program and its results, there seems to be plenty of support for the fall registration deadline from those involved with the pilot.

Regarding the decision to implement fall registration nationwide, Rasco stated, “I’m behind it. I believe in it… For one reason: you commit early to the full AP experience.”

Rasco believes that kids thrive in structure and high expectations. By forcing students to register early, teachers know they have a classroom full of kids committed to taking the exams. According to Rasco, this causes a “dramatic change in the way a teacher conducts their class.”

Like Rasco, Morman also thinks that the decision is a great move and called it  “a win-win for everybody.” She emphasized that the fall registration deadline and online resources were very beneficial for her district and believes that they are what’s best for students in general.

As long as there are skeptics of the College Board, there will always be controversy surrounding the decisions it makes. The move to a fall registration deadline for AP exams is no different. The inconvenient truth, for both the College Board and its critics, is that no clear narrative appeared to emerge from The Wingspan’s investigation of the 2017-18 AP Pilot Program. Although the changes implemented by the program seemed to increase equity with regards to access, their effect on equity with regards to performance seemed to be minimal. While some of those involved in the pilot like Rasco and Morman have expressed their support of fall registration, the College Board’s limited and somewhat misleading representations of the pilot program’s results and its nature raise questions. Unfortunately, there is and in all likelihood will be no final verdict, no definitive answers.The truth, much like the pilot program and the College Board itself, is complicated.

 

To listen to a behind the scenes interview with the author, Caleb McClatchey, click here!

To view the entire November issue, click here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Football Season Comes to an End

Words: Joey Sedlacko

Photos: Adithi Soogoor

Centennial’s Varsity football team suited up for the last time for the final game of the season on Friday, November 1. The Eagles were defeated by Hammond High School by a score of 28-0.

Before the game, nine seniors on the football team were honored for their commitment and dedication to the program.

In the first quarter, Hammond started the game strong and returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. They continued to extend their lead throughout the first half and finished the second quarter with a 20-0 lead.

During halftime, seniors in the Centennial marching band, color guard, and Counterpoint were honored.

In the third quarter, Centennial’s defense held strong and gave up zero points. However, another touchdown scored by Hammond in the fourth quarter secured the 28 point victory.

The Eagles finished the season with a 1-7 record, but were able to end a 25-game losing streak after defeating rival Mount Hebron High School earlier in the year.

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Seniors Dominate In Centennial’s First Ever Men’s Volleyball Game

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew & Adithi Soogoor

During Eagle Time on Wednesday, September 25, the gym flooded with students anticipating Centennial’s first ever boys volleyball game. Following the structure of the traditional powder puff game, eighteen junior and senior boys went head-to-head.

With people packing the student section, a display of USA-themed school spirit and excited chants could be seen.

Juniors began with an advantage as Paul Russell took the stage. With a 12-5 lead, the seniors needed to make significant strides in order to catch up. Senior Shawn Kruhm had a strong serve, scoring over the juniors and beginning their comeback.

“They had us in the first half,” said Kruhm. “We played really well, it was a well deserved win.”

After 20 minutes of intense back and forth play, the clock ran out and the seniors won 29-27. The senior student section cheered as they flooded the gym floor, creating a dog pile on the court.

While the boys played with great sportsmanship and intensity, Centennial’s first ever men’s homecoming volleyball game will go down in history as a triumphant win for the Class of 2020.

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Centennial Students Show Out On Pajama Day

Words: Natalie Keane

Photos: Adithi Soogoor & Sara Ferrara

On Monday, September 23, Centennial students arrived dressed in pajamas and all things
comfy to celebrate the arrival of Homecoming Spirit Week. Tomorrow’s Spirit Day will be
Tropical Tuesday, where students will showcase their finest Hawaiian shirts and colorful leis.

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Back to School Night

Words: Sasha Allen

Photos: Adithi Soogoor

Back to School Night is full of anxious parents learning about their students’ academic year, but there is more that goes on behind the scenes. While the parents are in their children’s classes, their students have the chance to learn about the dozens of clubs that will operate this year.

The club walkthrough, located in the media center, showcases the clubs’ platforms and achievements on trifold boards to attract new, interested members. 

Caio Goolsby, a senior and member of the It’s Academic team, had an entertaining night at the showcase.

“I love being able to see the great variety… from the Korean club to the engineering club, [this event] shows how diverse the Centennial population is.” 

Aria Ma, the founder of Centennial’s Green Club, takes the opportunity to display her club and introduce new opportunities to new students. 

“[This event] allows freshmen and their parents to learn about opportunities… to engulf themselves in the community, and to meet new people,” Ma said. She enjoys talking about her club to interested freshmen, trying to help them figure out what their interests are for the new school year.

“This event makes me feel welcome… and more a part of Centennial,” freshman Allen Yang commented. Freshmen and seniors alike had an exciting time at the club showcase; either exploring new opportunities at Centennial or showcasing their interests to other eager students.

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Students’ Summer Bucket List

Words & Photos: Noorie Kazmi, Keith Hitzelberger, Adithi Soogoor

What are our Centennial Eagles doing after school ends? We hunted down three students to find out their plans for summer break.

Darren DeGroff

Freshman

”Over the summer, I will be building a PC in order to stream League of Legends on Twitch. I will be spending a week in Siesta Key, Florida with my family during July. In the downtime of the summer I will be at the pool with my friends. I might pretend to study a little, but in all likelihood I will take it easy this summer and try to rewind.”


Praagna Kashyap

Sophomore

“I’m gonna be on a research team studying neuroscience.” She, like any other Centennial student, will “study for SATs because I have to do that.”

 

Josh Kim

Junior

“I will be working as a private tutor during the summer as well as studying for the SAT on August 25th. I will also be volunteering with my church and I am going to Philly for five days.”

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

 

Dangers of the School Parking Lot

Words: Julia Stitely

Photos: Adithi Soogoor

From the dawn of the school day to the afternoon, students and parents of Centennial are affected by the hardships of the school parking lot. In recent years, the parking lot has been known for being the site of several collisions. Between students running in between cars, ignorance to road signs and the layout of the parking lot, it’s no easy task for even the more experienced drivers.

The accidents, in part, could be caused by the overcrowding in Centennial.

Michael Guizzotti, Centennial’s security guard, expressed his concerns of the parking lot by saying, “We are overpopulated, so it’s not just the hallways that are crowded, it’s the parking lot too.”

“In the morning, it’s not that bad because I get there pretty early so I can get a good spot,” junior Casey Duhon said. “Sometimes I’ll be a little bit late and it could take me five minutes to get to a parking spot because the layout of the lot makes it so difficult.”

Michele Aylaian, mother of two Centennial students, expressed concern for students walking in from the parking lot in the morning.

“When they are late and running between cars, they are at risk of being hit by a driver who doesn’t see them,” she commented. “It’s stressful as a driver because you don’t know when a student is going to suddenly run in front of you.”

Afternoon Bottleneck

Things get hectic for Centennial students who drive to school when the clock hits 2:10. The sudden rush of students makes it easy to lose control in the crowded parking lot, giving the driver only a second to gain control before hitting something in their surroundings.

“Getting out of the parking lot after school is rather scary because everyone is rushing to get home and will cut people off when turning or switching lanes,” said Duhon.

Centennial principal, Cynthia Dillon, stated the design of the lot was not intended for the mass population.

“The lot wasn’t designed for the flow of traffic that comes through in the morning and in the afternoon,” said Dillon. “The way that the lot is marked, the road markings and the signage are not adequate.”

Dillon also believes that another problem that arises in the morning comes from parents letting their kids out in the closed second lane for drop off and in the parking rows themselves.

“People don’t honor the directions from the procedure of dropping kids off,” Dillon shared. “What they will do is pull into the second lane, but also the actual parking row.”

“They will drop their kids off one or two rows away,” Dillon added. “So the kids are walking through cars to get through the door.”

One solution that Dillon and the administrators are looking into is putting new signs up in the parking lot and painting on the roads.

“We have a stop sign on the Centennial side but they don’t have one on the Burleigh side, and they don’t have one on the main way,” Dillon said. “There should be a stop.”

Dillon and the administrators requested the Grounds Department in the Building Services Division of the Howard County system for another stop sign, and the lot is slated to be repainted in the summer.

Parking Permit Problems

In the past week, over 130 cars were found in the parking lot without a parking pass. The owners of these cars were warned that if they are found without a pass, parked on the lot, there would be disciplinary consequences.

Dillion stated the reason they did it in the end of the year rather than the beginning of the year was because of the increase of cars due to juniors starting to get their licenses.

She suggested that, “Families should take note of Safe Driver presentations and plan to attend one proactively. Students and a guardian must attend the presentation annually in order to be eligible for a parking permit.”

Some of the students that are affected are outraged by the situation. Junior Amelia Oliver lives in Old Ellicott City, and it takes her about 30 minutes to go to school.

“I think the passes should be based off where you live,” she said, “because some kids, it is much easier for them to drive. Others can walk.”

The Centennial Film Club found the humor in the parking lot situation by creating a mockumentary called Parking Purgatory and entered it into the Howard County Film Festival.

Senior, Carolin Harvey, with other members, filmed and edited the entry.

“Although our video is mostly comical, it does highlight how crazy our parking lot actually is,” Carolin answered. “The footage we captured of the morning and afternoon definitely captures some of that madness.”

The dangers of the Centennial parking lot continue to be a problem for the staff and students with the overcrowding population and the design of the parking lot. The solutions to these factors are soon to be solved; until then, students and parents are advised to stay alert and focus on the road.

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.