A Florida high school principal and former chief academic officer have been formally reprimanded for providing 336 students with a "placebo" AP test, which they took believing a good grade would have resulted in earning college credits.
Mainland High School principal Cheryl Salerno and the district’s former chief academic officer Teresa Marcks both received a "strong letter of reprimand" from the district’s Office of Professional Standards, but no other disciplinary action has been outlined at this time, according to The News-Journal.
“Should you in the future exhibit such unprofessional conduct, it may result in your dismissal from employment with the School Board of Volusia County,” the letters read in part.
While Marcks was recently demoted to an assistant principal and had retired two days after the completion of the Florida Department of Education's investigation, Salerno will still serve as principal. She has been with the district for more than 30 years.
The Department of Education's investigation showed that Salerno had wanted to expose 414 freshmen to higher-level courses. However, she did not have the $60,000 she needed to pay for all of the students enrolled in the AP Seminar course to take the official exam. Instead, 336 students were given last year's AP exam, which does not count, with 78 students taking the proper test.
While Salerno claims she did not mean to "dupe" anyone, students and their parents feel as though they were left in the dark.
According to Click Orlando, the 414 students did not know if they were affected or not until July 5, when scores for the real AP test were posted online.
"She came down in tears, saying, 'The rumor is true. I took a fake test. I have no score,'" Jen Reilly said about her daughter. "She worked her tail end off to get an A because she was told all year from her teacher, 'If you do well, you get college credit.'"
On Monday, officials said that the students who took the school-sponsored test would be allowed to enroll in an elective research course. At the end of the course, they will receive an elective credit and will be able to take the AP seminar exam at no cost. Students who sat for the test and earned a 1 or 2 will be able to retake the exam in May 2020. They must receive a 3 or higher to receive the college credit.
"I'm apologizing on behalf of the district," Carl Persis, chairman of the Volusia County School Board told Click Orlando. "Weighing all those things, the professional standards committee felt like at this time, that a strong letter of reprimand was the appropriate consequence."
Salerno wrote in a letter to the district: “My decision to enroll the ninth-grade students in the AP Capstone Seminar course was purely for their benefit. I have always been motivated by what could be done to benefit the students’ learning, as opposed to what grade the school would get.”
But some parents, including Reilly, are upset over the situation. “How can [Salerno] make children feel they haven’t been duped when that’s what happened?” Reilly asked. “All they know is they took a class, they took a fake test and Dr. Salerno gave them the fake test. Now they’re supposed to go back to school and what, act like this never happened?”
Cheryl Salerno and Carl Persis did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s off-hours requests for comment.
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