College & Workforce Readiness

College Board Backs Legislation to ‘Maximize’ Credit for AP Courses

By Catherine Gewertz — March 29, 2017 3 min read
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The College Board is backing legislation in Washington state that goes farther than similar laws and policies in other states to require public college and university systems to award credit for Advanced Placement scores of 3 or higher.

The bill says that the legislature wants to “establish a policy for granting as many undergraduate course credits as possible to students who have earned a minimum score of three on their AP exams.” The goal of the policy is to “award course credit in all appropriate instances and maximize the number of college students given college credit for AP exam scores of three or higher,” it says.

The measure, House Bill 1333, has passed the house and is now pending before the state senate.

According to the Education Commission of the States, which tracks state policies, 20 states currently have laws requiring their higher education systems to award credit for Advanced Placement courses (and, often, for other kinds of college-level courses, too). Details of the laws vary; Some allow individual campuses to decide what AP scores they’ll accept in exchange for credit. Others establish systemwide policies. There are similar variations in states where the question of college credit is addressed in policy, but not law.

The varying policies on AP credit acceptance can create a maze of confusion for students as they try to figure out how—and whether—colleges will receive their AP credits. (Students find a similar mix of policies about accepting dual-enrollment credits.)

The proposed Washington law goes farther than most states’ AP-credit-acceptance laws, according to Jennifer Zinth, who analyzes high school policy for the ECS. She pointed to language in the bill that urges colleges to grant “as many ... credits ... as possible and appropriate” for AP exams with scores of 3 or higher. Among state laws on the granting of AP credit, that language is “unusual,” Zinth said.

For teachers in International Baccalaureate programs, however, it doesn’t go far enough. They’re dismayed that the bill pertains only to AP credits, not to college credits earned through the IB program.

Washington state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction supports teachers and parents who want to see IB credits included in the legislation.

“In our view, students who undertake the rigorous IB coursework and take the exams deserve the same level of consideration being offered to AP students,” Robert Butts, the OSPI’s senior advisor for governmental relations, wrote to the two lead co-sponsors of the measure in the House and Senate.

His note acknowledged that the request to include IB in the legislation might have come too late in the legislative session, and said he still hopes the issue can be addressed before the legislation is finalized.

Julie Garver, the director of policy and academic affairs for the Council of Presidents, which represents the state’s six public four-year colleges and universities, said the bill was “introduced by the College Board, not by our sector. That’s how it was introduced, with that singular focus on AP,” she said.

If the bill becomes law, it wouldn’t change what those public institutions already do, Garver said, since they believe in a “broadly defined” concept of awarding college credit, one that includes credit from AP, IB, and dual-enrollment programs. The six institutions already have a policy to award credit for AP exam scores of 3 or higher, she said, so if the bill becomes law, it would only “codify current practice.”

A similar bill pending in Oregon, also supported by the College Board, would require public institutions to award credit for “successful grades” on AP exams, but offers only a suggested definition of what “successful” would mean (a 3 or higher).

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.