Washington state students have been confused recently about whether they can get college credit for taking the most rigorous college-level classes while still in high school.
This month, the Legislature passed the third bill in as many years seeking to help them: Students who earn a score of at least 4 on International Baccalaureate exams in high school would be guaranteed college credit at public universities in Washington under the bill passed by the House and Senate.
After some minor reconciliation between the two versions, the bill — SB 5410 — will go to the governor’s desk, likely in May, said its sponsor, Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah. “It’s a done deal,” he said.
In 2017, Mullet successfully sponsored a bill to give students college credit for an exam score of 3 or higher (out of 5) on Advanced Placement tests, the most common of the standardized, college-level courses taught in high school. In 2018, students enrolled in International Baccalaureate (IB) courses asked legislators to pass a bill that would also give them credit for a score of 4 or higher (out of 7) on IB exams, arguing that IB courses were at least as rigorous as AP courses.
But last year’s bill didn’t seem to fix the situation for IB students, and in a story about the issue in The Seattle Times, students said some college advisers told them they wouldn’t get credit for all the college-level courses they took, including some AP courses. The new law generated so much confusion that in July, five state legislators sent a letter to the state’s colleges and universities, spelling out how they should interpret the law.
“We ran this bill to make it crystal clear that AP and IB get treated the same,” Mullet said of the 2019 update.
State colleges argued that they needed to study the IB exams and courses, and make sure they covered the same material a student would have learned in a comparable college class. They have also argued that students are better-served by taking certain courses — history, for example — taught by a professor who has spent his or her life studying the subject. And introductory courses are moneymakers for universities, since they’re often taught to large numbers of students.
But as the latest bill made its way through the Legislature this year, opposition from college professors started to fade, Mullet said. After passing the Senate by a vote of 46-0, the bill passed the House unanimously Tuesday.
The bill gives students who entered college in the last academic year — students who are sophomores today — retroactive credit for the courses, Mullet said. It also covers a score of at least an E on Cambridge International exams, a similar college-level program offered by a handful of Washington schools.