Fairness requires a standard for how much college credit Washington high school students earn from passing AP and IB tests.

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Washington high school students who get a passing score on an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam should be rewarded with a standard amount of college credit for this accomplishment, no matter where they decide to go to college.

Washington’s public colleges and universities do not agree that the credit earned for passing these tests should be standardized statewide. They are wrong; fairness requires a standard. The Legislature passed laws encouraging Washington’s higher-education system to reach an agreement on test credits, but college officials have been dragging their feet.

The universities, represented by the Washington State Council of Presidents, argue they need to review each class before making a decision on how much credit to award. They say some classes are better than others, and the curriculum taught varies. This is true, but the tests given after the classes do not vary. The same tests are given to students across the nation who want to prove they have learned the material in calculus, English literature, chemistry, etc. Either a student has learned what he or she needs to know to take the next class in an academic sequence, or not.

Standardized tests should be paired with standardized credit.

Take calculus, one of the more popular AP exams, as an example. The University of Washington awards one quarter of credit to those who score a three or four on the most common Calculus exam or two quarters of credit for those who score a five. Just 111 miles to the east on Interstate 90, Central Washington University awards just one quarter of credit no matter the score on that test. Every university has its own list of credits for the various AP exams.

Students deciding whether to attend UW or CWU should have an understanding that the credit they earned in high school would apply the same at either school. The same is true for International Baccalaureate credit, which involves another standardized test. Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who sponsored bills requesting standardized credit for AP and IB tests, says it’s an issue of fairness and economics.

Mullet says he understands why college professors want to look more closely at what is taught in those AP and IB classes, but they shouldn’t hold back this year’s college freshmen who worked hard and passed the tests, and expect the results to save them and their parents some college tuition. They assumed, wrongly it appears, that the colleges would treat standardized tests in a standard way. And they should.