Representative proposes bill to change Advanced Placement required scores

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

The four or five required on the Advanced Placement tests to claim college credit will be reduced to a three if a bill that Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) proposed in the Texas House passes. 

If passed in its current form, Zerwas’ bill would set AP scores of three as the minimum required score for course credit at state universities. Currently, individual universities are able to set what AP scores qualify for credit in their classes. 

UT accepts mostly fours as the minimum score for credit but also accepts twos, threes and fives depending on the course.

The bill was filed to create increased opportunities for high school students to earn college credit, said Nelda Hunter, Zerwas’ chief of staff.

“What we would like to see is schools come to a uniform policy where they accept threes, so students can be recognized for their achievement and, in the long run, save a lot of money because they are not paying for that course in the college setting,” Hunter said.

According to College Board, the organization that administers the AP program, 17 UT courses require a four to receive credit and 12 require threes. Two tests, biology and Chinese language and culture, require a five. Students may receive credit for German language and culture with a two.

College Board reported that in 2014, 211,192 Texas students received threes or higher out of the 434,001 who took the AP test. Students receiving fours and above numbered around 113,000.

Hunter said she has heard opposition to the bill in its current state from university representatives across the state, including those from UT. Hunter said some universities want the ability to request higher scores for a student’s major versus non-major courses. She said other universities have said threes will not adequately prepare students for subsequent courses at an institution, a concern Student Testing Services coordinator Mellanie Patterson holds.

“Those courses are rigorous, and we want to make sure students are prepared to take those courses,” Patterson said. “If they are scoring a one or three, in some instances, they are not very prepared.”

UT assesses which courses best align with each of the 36 AP tests and sets the scores required for credit annually. 

To address the concerns of universities, Hunter said there would be amendments made to the current bill allowing for some leeway in AP score acceptance.

“What we are working on is a provision that allows for some flexibility for universities to provide a compelling reason for why they would have to accept a score higher than a three,” Hunter said.

Hunter said Zerwas and his staff have not yet determined what would qualify as a compelling reason.

Genetics professor Alan Lloyd said students who bypass the prerequisite 311C or 311D biology courses, which require a five on the AP test, already tend to struggle in his course. He said students who receive a three and then take his class would not be successful in it.

“I don’t think they will be prepared,” Lloyd said. “I think it’s very unlikely, [and] I know I’m opposed to sort of dumbing down the course so those people would pass genetics.” 

Finance sophomore Aaron Perez said universities should be required to accept threes as a minimum score since it is the same as passing a course. He said that as long as a university accepts dual credit, a college class taken in high school for credit, the institution must also accept threes on AP tests.

“I would say that my opinion is centered on the idea of subjectivity,” Perez said in an email. “If universities accept credit from dual courses that were ‘passed’ … then they should also accept the ‘passing’ AP test score of a 3.”