Calder Stembel: Don’t punish IB students

In the coming weeks, high school seniors in the U.S. and abroad will receive an ornate acceptance letter from GW. While completing their applications, some students might have been surprised by the request for “AP/IB scores,” unaware of the International Baccalaureate alternative to Advanced Placement exams. AP students are well represented at GW, while IB graduates account for a small but growing fraction of the study body. If GW wants to increase the number and quality of students that accept their ornate invitation, then the University must improve their woefully inadequate provisions for IB graduates.

According to an article last month in The Hatchet, officials believe accepting too many AP and IB credits “dilutes the quality of education this University offers.” Yet developing more specific and generous policies toward IB credit will not undermine GW or devalue its education. Such a change corresponds to the objectives of the University: it will attract new and diverse students, increase the quality of the student body, emphasize the University’s commitment to global standards and put GW on par with other prestigious universities, all while giving students more time to pursue advanced coursework.

In contrast to the ? la carte approach to AP classes, the IB Diploma Program is a full curriculum of six classes, some of which span two years; it is the scores for these classes that most universities recognize. However, IB students must also complete the Theory of Knowledge class; many hours of community service, athletics and creative activity; and a 4,000 word Extended Essay. If students fail to complete any of these requirements, even if they earn passing scores on their exams, they do not receive the IB Diploma. Failure to understand these and other differences between IB and AP causes universities to allocate IB credit based on incompatible policies designed for AP credit, devaluing the efforts of IB graduates.

GW’s credit policies demonstrate a bias towards AP students. The University theoretically grants credit for 43 IB courses; of these, 42 yield elective credit only and one allows advanced placement. In contrast, of the 32 AP examinations accepted for credit, all 32 allow the student to place out of a corresponding class. This disparity is nothing short of discrimination against a minority of motivated and successful intellectuals. It is this inequality that “dilutes the quality of education” at GW and questions its commitment to students.

Other notable schools have more specific, well-researched and generous IB policies. The University of Southern California clearly separates its IB policies from its AP policies, and does so in a relatively fair manner. Dartmouth College’s policy does not specify the credit given for IB courses; rather, a portion of credit allocations are “subject to departmental determinations” and discussion about advanced credit is encouraged. This combination of general regulation and case-by-case decisions is a kind of individual attention and flexibility not matched by GW.

The greatest benefit to improving GW’s IB policies – and awarding more, not less, credit – is the increased ability for students to pursue more advanced coursework. The desire to gain more IB credit is the desire to be adequately recognized for work already completed and talent already proven, the desire to work efficiently and purposefully, the desire to reconcile one’s limited time with one’s unlimited talents. It is the desire to make the best use of a student’s eight semesters at GW and of the corresponding tuition money.

For a University so concerned with its rankings, ability to attract new students and international affairs, it is appalling that GW has so little concern for IB graduates. I am confident that a more generous policy will not be abused to avoid work, but instead to pursue more meaningful experiences at GW, in D.C. and abroad. It will take more than an ornate acceptance letter to attract the world’s best students to GW; it will require a complete reevaluation of credit policies and the recognition of IB graduates as valued members of the community.

The writer is a freshman majoring in English.

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