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Advanced Placement Exam Fee Subsidy Program

News from Commissioner Mitchell Chester & the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

On the Desktop — Jan. 26, 2017

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, Assistant Superintendents and Principals:

The transition from the federal No Child Left Behind law to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will bring new opportunities for states, districts, and schools to align resources to meet the needs of our students. As with any change in federal law, it will also bring about program changes and eliminations. As the Department learns more about how the law impacts existing programs that affect our students, I will keep you informed. This memorandum addresses changes to the way economically disadvantaged students obtain Advanced Placement (AP) exam fee and International Baccalaureate (IB) exam fee reductions under ESSA. I have outlined specifics below and urge every district and charter school leader to carefully consider AP and IB exam fee reductions in your budget planning moving forward so that as a system we can continue to encourage all students to enroll in AP courses and complete the exams.

The U.S. Department of Education's AP Test Fee Program ended on June 30, 2016. Under this program our Department was able to secure federal grant funds to provide AP and IB exam fee subsidies to economically disadvantaged students. As a result, the number of AP exams taken by economically disadvantaged students in Massachusetts has grown from 1,170 in 1998, the year before the program began, to 20,154 in 2016.

Starting with the May 2017 AP exams, states will no longer be able to apply for federal funds to support AP exam fee reductions. The AP Test Fee Program was consolidated with many other programs under Title IV, Part A of ESSA. While ESSA eliminated the former program administered by states, it creates avenues for districts to continue to provide AP and IB exam fee reductions for underserved students.

  • Title IV, Part A of ESSA: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants: ESSA includes a flexible block grant program under Title IV, Part A that districts will receive based on the Title I formula. One goal of this program is to ensure all students are provided a well-rounded education.[1] AP activities are included in the law as an allowable expenditure to further this goal. Districts will be able to use Title IV, Part A funds to cover part or all of the cost of AP and IB exam fees for economically disadvantaged students.

    Congress will establish the Title IV, Part A funding level in the FY 17 federal budget. Due to the timing, Congress included a Special Rule under Title IV to allow states and districts to use FY 17 Title IV, Part A funds to cover AP and IB exams taken by eligible students in both May 2017 and in May 2018. Therefore, for FY 17, districts that choose to use Title IV, Part A funds for this purpose will be able to use one year of federal funding to cover two years' worth of AP and IB exam fee reductions.

  • Title I Funds: Districts may also consider using Title I funds to cover May 2017 exams for Title I students to the extent those funds are available.

    To help districts plan while we await final FY 17 funding allocations, the Department will provide each superintendent and charter school leader with the total amounts paid for exam fee reductions on behalf of economically disadvantaged students in their districts in FY 15 and FY 16, and provide projections for FY 17. This information will be sent to you under separate cover.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and for ensuring that all students, especially our traditionally underserved students, have access to rich educational opportunities. If you have any questions about federal funding for AP exam fee reductions, please contact William Bell, Senior Associate Commissioner for Administration and Finance at wbell@doe.mass.edu.

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Last Updated: March 8, 2017
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