Decatur, Georgia — At the September 13 Decatur School Board meeting, students and parents asked the district to reconsider its decision to move to families incurring the cost of advanced placement and International Baccalaureate exams.
In February, the school board discussed creating a structure where families who can afford to pay the fees would cover the cost for their students.
On Wednesday, September 7, Decatur High School Principal Rochelle Lofstrand emailed families to let them know that families have the option to pay for AP and IB exams this school year, and later this year. 2023-2024 school year, families will have to pay for registration. and assessments, with financial support available.
Here is Lofstrand’s full email:
Dear DHS families,
For many years it has been CSD’s practice to pay for all International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams for all students who take the tests. Now that our school has approximately 870 applicants at a cost of $249,417 in 2022, it is not possible for the school and the district to continue to cover the full cost of testing. Additionally, the automatic coverage of test fees for all CSD students creates a financial burden on the district that is generally not borne by schools and an equity issue in our schools. A disproportionate number of students have families who benefit from free testing costs (in the form of college credits, university admissions, and scholarships) and could comfortably afford the costs of these exams. Thus, creating a structure where families who can afford to pay the fees cover these costs for their students would free up District funds to provide more resources to students who have greater financial need.
CSD strongly wishes that the fee does not deter any student from pursuing AP and IB courses and assessments and that scholarship opportunities are available.
So what does this mean for families in the future?
School year 2022-2023:
– All families have the option to pay for exams this year at $97 per AP test and $119 per IB exam. Charges will be added to the parent portal. Payment plans and scholarships will be available. Contact Ms. Lofstrand at [email protected] for this support.
School year 2023-2024 and beyond:
— Families will bear the cost of registration and AP/IB assessments, with financial support available.
How can parents and students learn more about how this?
Parents and students can listen to the recording of the February 2022 School Board working session to learn more about the reasons for this change.
In addition, Ms. Lofstrand will host a virtual town hall on this and various other topics on September 29 at 7 p.m. More information about this virtual event will be shared closer to the 29th.
“Recent changes to our IB exam costs are unfair, inequitable and unacceptable,” said Decatur High School student Maggie Stearns. “I decided to join the diploma program early last year before the decision was made because I was already on the advanced path and my advisor recommended this path to maximize my academic success at Decatur High school.”
She added that the Decatur system is designed to place students into the IB diploma program, and if the district wants families to fully pay for exams, other pathways like advanced placement or honors should be available. for students.
“If you want to have a complete IB system, you have to pay for our testing,” Stearns said. “It also discourages people from joining the IB program. A ton of people will switch to dual enrollment for fear of paying the cost of testing.”
Students should have been informed of the decision sooner, she said.
“It was mentioned that you will be informing current eighth graders of their decisions, so they can therefore plan their secondary schooling accordingly based on costs; however, it’s too late for those classes, like 2024, 2025 and 2026,” Stearns said. “We’ve already made our decisions, assuming we won’t have to pay for IB exams. If you want to implement this, I would suggest starting with the class of 2027.”
DHS senior Ruby Skillman is an IB diploma candidate in high school. She said she finds the announcement that students will have to pay exam fees in future years disturbing.
“I’m currently taking eight IB courses, including Theory of Knowledge. In May 2023, I will take six IB end-of-course exams,” said Skillman. “At $119 per IB test, I will be paying $714 out of pocket. For families with multiple children taking the IB and AP exams, the cost of these exams can become exorbitant.”
The exams provide opportunities for students to earn college credits and scholarships that can help students choose to pursue college, she added.
In the email, Lofstrand also touched on financial aid and said scholarship opportunities will be available for families.
“I find this an unsatisfactory solution to a complex problem. Students eligible for financial aid have parents working at least one job, possibly two, just to pay extremely high housing costs and property taxes, so they can live in the city of Decatur for their child to receive a good education,” Skillman said. “Asking these families to fill out more financial aid forms is just another hoop you’re asking them to jump through.”
In February, Lofstrand proposed changes to the test fee during a working session with the school board.
For the class of 2023, she suggested an idea to let students choose whether they will take each exam since they have completed a year of the IB program. If they decide to take the test, the district will register them and pay the fee. However, if students register for an exam in the fall and do not take the exam in the spring, they must reimburse the district for the cost of the exam.
“For the class of 2024 and beyond, families would bear the cost of testing, with financial support available,” Lofstrand said. “It is absolutely essential that our families know that this fee should not deter them from participating in our program at all.”
She added that it is important that the district provides families with an easy way to seek help and that the CSD will cover the cost or part of the cost depending on the families’ needs.
“We estimate that we would still need to budget around $50,000 each year to support our families who may need financial assistance,” Lofstrand said.
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