An entire Suncoast High class had to retake an AP exam over cheating concerns

Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach (File photo)

Twenty-two Suncoast High School students were called back to campus last month to retake an Advanced Placement exam after concerns arose that some of the students may have cheated on the test on their first try.

The school’s European history class sat for the exam in May, but several days later the students were pulled from the classroom and interrogated individually by school administrators, one student said.

The reason: suspicions that some of the students had cheated on the AP European History exam.

“We all got called down to the office individually and they interviewed us,” said Jose De Alvare, 16, a sophomore last year. “They thought that we had gotten the answers online.”

De Alvare said that he was not aware of anyone cheating on the exam, one of five AP exams that he took this past school year.

But College Board, the non-profit that administers the AP exams, decided that the entire class would have to retake it in order to receive credit, Suncoast’s principal said.

In a letter to parents, Principal Karen Whetsell said that the school had been alerted by test administrators that they had found a “high probability” that some of the school’s students had “an unfair advantage on the exam.” The letter did not elaborate on the findings.

“College Board determined the best way to ensure a fair administration of the exam is to have the AP European History students retake the short answer and essay sections, at no cost,” she wrote.

That meant De Alvare and his classmates had to put aside their summer plans and cram again for the exam. He said he’s not sure whether he passed but said he felt he didn’t do as well as the first time.

“We had forgotten everything we had learned,” he said. “I had a week to re-learn everything.”

School district officials released a copy of Whetsell’s letter to The Palm Beach Post but declined to comment further. The College Board did not respond to a request for comment.

Requiring students to retake AP exams over concerns about test security is rare but not unheard of. In Bradenton, nearly 250 high school students had their AP exam scores voided in May after an ineligible test proctor entered the room. The students had to retake the exam last month.

Suncoast, an application-only high school in Riviera Beach, is considered one of South Florida’s academic powerhouses. This year, U.S. News and World Report ranked Suncoast 53rd on its list of the best high schools in the nation.

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