What’s Wrong with International Baccalaureate?

One of the leading predictors of college success is taking a few college-level courses in high school. Turns out getting credit for those courses is rather difficult.

According to a piece by Jay Matthews in the Washington Post, while earning credit for Advanced Placement courses is relatively simple, getting colleges to grant credit for other college-level classes is difficult.

Just try to get credit for International Baccalaureate, a program of study that’s arguably more holistic than AP. As Matthews writes:

[Most colleges offer] college credit to students who get good grades on Advanced Placement exams in high school but that they refuse to give the same credit to students who do well on similar International Baccalaureate Standard Level exams. Tests for one-year IB courses don’t get credit; tests for similar one-year AP courses do.

This has produced one of the most nonsensical testing traditions I have encountered in American education, already famous for exam madness. The hardworking students who take a one-year IB course, do well on the exam and want to get the college credit they deserve have to spend another three hours, at one of the busiest times of the school year, taking the AP exam in that subject, which costs $87.

That’s right, at most colleges, students can only get credit for IB courses if they take (and pay for) the AP test in the subject matter; they simply don’t recognize the IB examination.

This is sort of dumb. Now I have my concerns with Advanced Placement, but considering colleges already address credit for it, why shouldn’t they offer it for IB? Why do they feel compelled to force students to throw more money over to the College Board?

Matthews first noticed this problem years ago. No colleges seem to be able to explain why they operate like this, but all promise to look into it. Apparently they’re still looking.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer