DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A state investigation has determined that hundreds of high school students in Daytona Beach thought they were taking an AP exam for college credit, but administration gave them a mock test instead — and the school knew about it.

  • Investigation: Hundreds took mock AP exams without their knowledge
  • Students thought they were earning college credit in AP Capstone course
  • School Board chairman learned about invalid testing from anonymous tip

Volusia County School Board Chairman Carl Persis says he got an anonymous tip that sparked the investigation into the testing at Mainland High School.

An investigation that followed has determined that the majority of the students enrolled in the AP Capstone seminar course took a mock test at the end of the year instead of the real one. 

Persis said that usually, select students are recommended for enrollment in AP classes at Mainland High, but last school year, it was different. 

"In this case, the principal decided it would be interesting to see if we enrolled over 400 students, who normally wouldn't be counseled to take an AP course. 'Let's just see how they would do,' (the principal thought)," Persis said.

The problem arose due to the price of testing. With AP tests costing the school as much as $120 per student, the school did not have the budget to buy tests for everyone taking the class.

"Because of that, I believe it was about 76 students who were actually given the actual AP test. The rest of the students were given an AP test from the previous year, so it does not count. It was considered a mock test," Persis said.

However, according to the Professional Standards investigation, none of the students were told that ahead of time. As it turned out, 336 were not taking a valid test. 

"I am not aware of anyone indicating that students were told ahead of time that you are going to take a mock test (and) some some of you are going to take the real test," Persis said.

Persis said that the College Board, which makes the AP tests, was unaware of the mock test.

Now, several investigations are underway. 

"We can’t look the other way and pretend that this wasn’t a grave error, a serious error in judgment," Persis said.

The school district reached out to the College Board to see whether the more than 300 students who didn't take an official test could do so, but the organization said it will have to wait until next year.

Now, the district is working on a plan to notify the affected students and offer them the opportunity to take the test next year and have tutoring beforehand.

"We are addressing the issue and reaching out to parents," Volusia County Schools said in an emailed statement. "These parents will also be contacted at the end of the investigative process to inform them as to what the district will do going forward."

We tried to contact Mainland High Principal Dr. Cheryl Salerno, but we were told she was unavailable. Persis said the issue will be taken up at a board meeting July 2.

The Professional Standards investigation findings and any actions that will be taken will be made public in two weeks, according to Volusia County Schools.

Parents who have questions were urged to contact Area Superintendent Susan Freeman at 386-734-7190, ext. 20237.

State Investigation into AP Exam