D.C.-Area AP Test Scores Improved in 2014 Despite Rash of Snow Days

Last winter’s rash of snowstorms and school “snow days” didn’t damage the Advanced Placement test scores of Washington, D.C.-area public school students despite widespread concerns from parents, teachers and students.

A News4 I-Team review of test scores obtained from nine local school districts shows a surprising increase in passing AP test scores, which includes scores between 3 and 5, in the 2013-2014 school year. Some of the test score improvements, including in Frederick County, Maryland, and Loudoun County, Virginia, were significant despite a refusal by almost all local high schools to use a later AP test date offered by the national overseers of the exam.

A series of significant snow and ice storms triggered a disruptive string of school cancellations in early 2014. More than a dozen snow closings were ordered in much of the D.C.-region, including in Prince William, Fauquier and Loudoun counties. At least 10 school snow days were issued by Alexandria, Montgomery County, Fairfax County and Falls Church. Despite the large-scale interruptions and disjointed school calendars — and the resistance by some school districts to significantly reduce spring break vacations — test scores did not decline, as some educators feared and predicted.

Advanced Placement teachers interviewed by News4 said the I-Team’s findings revealed a high level of ambition and work ethic among the population of students who enroll in AP courses. Bradley Gray, an AP economics teacher at Tuscarora High School in Frederick County, said of his students, “They’re pretty self-motivated kids.“ Gray acknowledged the 12 snow day closures at Tuscarora High disrupted his classes and lesson planning. “By the time you get to the middle of the winter, you’re wishing you get snow days anymore,” he said.

The number of overall AP exams administered in local school districts also increased, despite the rash of snow days. “D.C. led the nation in the percentage of 11th and 12th grade public high schools students who took an AP exam in high school,” D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz said.

A Harvard University Kennedy School study of the impact of school snow days concludes weather-related closures have less of any impact on student achievement than traditional absences. The study said school districts appeared “prepared to deal with coordinated disruptions like snow days.” It also found, “Schools do not, however, seem to deal well with less extreme disruptions in which only some students are absent.”

Contact Us