The state has changed the way it helps students pay for Advanced Placement exams. Instead of paying for one exam for low-income students, the state will now pay for an exam for any student, regardless of income, if the tests are related to the STEM field – subjects in science, technology, engineering or math.
The change has drawn criticism from some teachers groups and educators.
“We're disappointed with it because low-income students that are not moving towards a STEM education shouldn't be penalized because they're seeking, maybe, a liberal arts education,” said Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators.
The change happened through the legislative budget process in which funds were moved from the Department of Education to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.
Jennifer Phinney, director of school support at Dalton Public Schools, said she was made aware of the change recently from a notice from the state Department of Education.
She said she understands the intent is to get more students involved in STEM, but said she’s concerned the change could mean less access for low-income students. In 2016, about 75 percent of the school district’s population qualified for free or reduced meals, according to its annual report.
“The ultimate impact, I think, for our state will be that fewer students that qualify as economically-disadvantaged will access AP exams of any kind,” Phinney said.
She said the three largest exams taken at Dalton Public High School are AP World History, AP U.S. History and AP English Language and Composition.
Phinney said the change could also shift the costs to the school systems who are helping students pay for AP exams, like her district.
The cost of an AP exam this year for a student is $93.