University to accept fewer AP and IB credits

The University is cracking down on the number of introductory courses students can skip with Advanced Placement test scores.

More high school students are taking AP exams, and scores on the exams have increased this year, according to statistics from the College Board. In response, the University’s Council of Deans decided to accept 24 AP or International Baccalaureate credits from freshmen, down from 30 in previous years.

“There was a desire to make sure that receiving a GW degree truly means receiving a GW-quality education,” said Carol Sigelman, associate vice president for graduate studies and academic affairs. “There was also some concern about the quality of some AP, IB and other such courses in view of the rapid growth of enrollments in these courses in recent years.”

The College Board reported more than 15.2 percent of public high school seniors received a score of at least a 3 on one AP test in 2007, compared to 11.7 percent in 2002. Maryland and Virginia placed second and third in the ranking of U.S. states with the highest percentage of seniors graduating with a passing AP score. New York ranked first.

“Basically, we want a GW graduate to have a GW educational experience. This does not mean we frown upon efforts by smart high school students to do college-level work . It is just a matter of how much of it we want to count toward the GW degree,” Seigelman said.

In recent years, GW administrators established policies to manage the way AP and IB credit can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree. Students cannot, for example, use AP English credit to place out of participation in the University Writing program.

Carol Hayes, director of GW’s first-year writing program, said the program is modeled after similar ones at Duke and Princeton universities, which do not allow exemptions from test credit.

“As a teacher in the program, the comments on evaluations usually said something like ‘when I came I was upset that I couldn’t get credit even though I got a five on the AP exam, but after I taking the class I see the difference and why I had to take (the class),” Hayes said.

The University Honors Program implemented a new curriculum for its freshman class this year that requires students to take a series of introductory classes that will fill general curriculum requirements, but unlike the University’s policy with GCR’s, honors students cannot use AP credit to place out of these courses.

“For students who have a primary goal of getting through as fast as possible, the honors program, like a second major, may not be the right choice for them,” said Grace Baxter, director of the University Honors Program. “We feel that accepting too many AP credits dilutes the quality of education this university offers to undergraduates.”

Departments have been affected to varying degrees by the increased number of students with AP credits.

In the math department, enrollment in calculus courses is steady, but low enrollment numbers led the department to decrease its pre-calculus course offerings.

Both the history and biology department have not seen fewer students enroll in its introductory-level course offerings

“I think the credit hours given for each scored AP exam are fair,” incoming freshman Colin York said in an e-mail. “I hope to either not take any history or be able to pursue a more specific and interesting history class.”

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