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State receives decreased funding for AP testing

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

Virginia will receive about $189,000 in federal funds to cover the cost of Advanced Placement tests taken by low-income students in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, an amount less than the state received last year, according to Charles Pyle, Director of Communications for the Virginia Department of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education had more than $21.5 million in grants to give out to more than 43 states. Since the target group for the funds are those who qualify as low-income, the amount of funding per state was determined by how many of those students take AP tests.

For the 2011-2012 school year, Virginia received $222,362 in funding to cover the costs of AP tests for low-income students, Pyle said. While the amount is less this year, he said the funding will still help in encouraging students to not only take AP courses, but also take the test and continue into higher education.

School divisions already covering the cost of AP tests will not be eligible for funding, Pyle said, but school's not covering the cost also will be able to participate "to a certain extent, given the amount that's available to us."

Pyle added that funding doesn't go directly to individual school districts, but instead to the College Board, which reimburses the schools.

According to the College Board website, the $87 exam fee will be erased for low-income students, and there will be no limit on the number of exams each students is allowed to take.

Currently, students who qualify for the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch Program will also qualify for the AP test fee reduction, the website says.

One-third of the students in Frederick County qualify for free or reduced lunches, according to Steve Edwards, Coordinator of Policy, Records Management, and Communications for Frederick County Public Schools. Edwards said he's unsure at this point if the low-income definition and requirements will change, though, so the number of students who can have the costs covered may vary from past years.

The school district saw a six percent increase in the number of AP courses taken during the 2011-2012 school year, Edwards said. However, while 1,494 seats were taken by the county's students in AP courses, only 319 AP tests were administered, he added.

"It costs nothing to take the class, only to take the test," he said. Frederick County does not cover the cost of tests, so they could be eligible for the fee reduction for qualifying students.

Students could take an AP course and test, but if they don't receive a score of three or higher, Edwards said chances are they won't get any college credit for it.

"I will say that we saw a 35 percent increase in the number of students taking dual enrollment courses through LFCC," he said. "I can see the benefit to students because the credit comes from their final grade and how they do in the class, not from a final test."

Edwards said it's still hard to say at this point how the funding will affect student participation in AP courses this school year.

"It's great that there's a way for certain students to have their test cost covered," he said. "But either way, we believe in challenging our students, so we're glad to see students involved in any courses that do that."

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