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Legislation Would Give Students Greater Access to Advanced Placement Courses

Cory Doctorow

For the second time in two years, the Pennsylvania House is considering a bill that would expand high school students’ access to advanced placement (AP) courses in the state.

House Bill 512, introduced by Rep. James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), would establish standard practices for how public colleges and universities accept transferable credits from students who pass AP, International Baccalaureate or College-Level Examination exams. The measure has moved out of committee and awaits action by the full house.

The AP tests are scored on a five-point scale, with most schools handing out college credits to students for scoring a three, but according to Roebuck, chair of the House Education Committee, some schools require higher scores than others. Three of the state’s 14 universities accept International Baccalaureate credits.

Roebuck said, sometimes, the credits earned don’t go towards the students’ chosen majors.

“You’ll take the advanced placement. You’ll get college credit, but it rolls over into what are ‘electives’ so it doesn’t actually help you in terms of your major course requirements,” Roebuck said.

Under the bill, the 32 state-owned or related universities and community colleges would be required to adopt uniform standards by July 1, 2016.

The bill would also set standards for Pennsylvania high schools.

“The goal is to make sure that every high school would offer at least a number of options in probably four subject areas and would therefore give every student in Pennsylvania the opportunity to take advantage of this kind of program,” Roebuck said.

Schools would be required to offer AP classes in English, math, science and the social sciences. According to Roebuck, nearly 40 percent of Pennsylvania schools don’t offer AP science classes.

“…training the estimated 885 teachers in our public schools needed to ensure that every high school in the state can provide AP courses in the four core academic areas would cost the state just over $1 million, at an estimated cost of $1,200 per teacher trained,” Roebuck said last year.

According to Roebuck, that money would come from a school-to-school mentoring program proposed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

With more students having access to AP courses, Roebuck said gaining college credit will not only speed up students’ academic careers, but it will also lessen their financial load.

“You hopefully not only accelerate the progress of the student getting through college in four years, but you also hopefully reduce the overall cost to parents,” he said. “So there are a number of benefits that can be gained from this program.”

The House approved a similar bill last year, but it failed to move out of the Senate Education Committee.

Credit Cory Doctorow / flickr
Thousands of Pennsylvania high school students take advanced placement tests every year but it's not always clear what score is required by local universities.