Virginia Senate Bill Addresses IB, AP Parity

Falls Church Times Staff

Attention International Baccalaureate parents, alumni, and students registered to vote in the Commonwealth of Virginia: the George Mason High School PTSA wants you to mobilize in support of Virginia State Senate Bill 209.  The bill, which will be considered by committee this Thursday, January 28, 2010, seeks comparable credit for IB and AP courses at all of Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

The legislation, which is being championed by the Mid-Atlantic Association of IB World Schools, addresses one of the frustrations IB students face if they choose to attend college in Virginia.  When these freshmen present their high school transcripts to some Virginia schools, they are not awarded college credit for courses that their fellow IB graduates are receiving credit for at some of the nation’s leading colleges and universities.

The GMHS PTSA urges voters to contact State Senator Whipple

The GMHS PTSA urges voters to contact State Senator Whipple

The Mason PTSA is urging residents of the City of Falls Church to contact State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple and express their support for SB 209.  The Health and Education Committee will take up the bill on Thursday and IB supporters would like to see it moved forward for consideration by the full Senate.

State Senator Whipple can be reached at: (804) 698-7531; or by e-mail at [email protected].

For more information on SB 209:
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The following is the text of a letter written to IB parents urging their support for SB 209.

Dear International Baccalaureate Parent,

Today, Thursday, January 21, 2010, the Virginia Senate Sub-Committee on Higher Education reviewed Senate Bill 209, which states, “each institution of higher education shall have policies for course credit for standard and higher level International Baccalaureate courses that are comparable to its policies for granting course credit for Advanced Placement courses.” This Bill barely made it out of the sub-committee and will face greater scrutiny at the Senate Committee on Education and Health hearing Thursday, January 28, 2010.

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The Mid-Atlantic Association of IB World Schools believes that passage of this bill would result in a more critical analysis of the rigor and performance of students on both standard level and higher level IB assessments by all of Virginia’s public colleges and universities.  While some Virginia colleges and universities have progressive policies that recognize the rigor and benefits of an IB education, other universities including The University of Virginia, The College of William and Mary, and George Mason University have policies that do not give similar weight to IB SL subjects that they award to comparable AP courses.  We feel that this practice sends an unintended message to parents that the IB is inferior to the Advanced Placement Courses offered by the College Board.  In fact, a Thomas B. Fordham Institute examination that compared IB standard level course curricula and assessments with their AP counterpart revealed that IB STANDARD LEVEL courses were either equivalent to or considered more rigorous than their AP counterparts. In addition to this, there are many studies that support the performance and retention rates of IB graduates at universities around the world.

For these reasons, we need your help. We are asking you to immediately contact your State Senator to let them know that you would like them to strongly support SB 209 and urge the Senate Committee on Health and Education to move the Bill for full Senate consideration. The Senate Committee on Health and Education will discuss and vote on this Bill at a hearing Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 8:30am.  Included with this letter you find the contact information for the members of the Senate Committee on Health and Education, in addition to your local State Senator.  You can learn more about SB 209 and how you can help by visiting the IB Mid-Atlantic website at .


Brian Bassett                                            Asheesh Misra
President, IB-MA                                     President-Elect, IB-MA


January 24, 2010 


12 Responses to “Virginia Senate Bill Addresses IB, AP Parity”

  1. Hillel Weinberg, Falls Church on January 24th, 2010 9:59 pm

    Chanting “SL = AP” over and over doesn’t make it so. It is of course the case that many universities around the world differentiate between and among SL, HL, and AP courses.

    With all due respect to the fans of the IB program, can’t we let university faculty and administrators make up their own minds about questions like this? Can’t they read these studies for themselves and decide if they are valid?

    The fact that an interest group has to apply to the general assembly for support of the proposition that these courses are equal, against the judgment of quality institutions such as W&M, UVA, etc., speaks to the substantive strength of the case being pressed. Are those institutions supposed to harbor some sort of animus against IB akin to race hatred that has to be overcome by an appeal to the legislature?

    A bill like this reminds me a little of the proposal that a state legislature in effect define pi to = 3.2.

  2. Lou Mauro on January 25th, 2010 12:04 am

    I trust you are not so naive as to think that only matters involving “animus…akin to race hatred” are legitimate subjects of legislative initiatives. Moreover, the “interest group” in this case is the Parent, Teacher and Student Association of our local high school—neither a greedy, fat cat Chamber of Commerce nor a nest of wacko enviros, just to toss out a couple of “interest group” sterotypes. And the question is not just whether the IB program is as good as the AP program. That is a complex issue about which reasonable people may disagree. Rather, it is also whether Virginia institutions of higher education should treat their own Virginia IB students similarly to the way those students are treated by colleges and universities in other States. As a citizen of Falls Church, what is your objection to the PTSA trying to achieve such parity for our local high school students?

  3. Ron Peppe on January 25th, 2010 10:52 am

    I understand the reluctance to have to create legislation over something like this, but FYI, the school board also supports the bill.

    The bill would not mandate that the schools grant credit, but it does require them to consider the standard level exams and create whatever policy they believe is appropriate.

    George Mason High School is an IB school, and we think this bill would help our students, both by helping them obtain appropriate credit at college (and perhaps saving parents some $$$), and by motivating participation in the full IB program. I know my own children benefited from the rigor of the program and the requirements for critical thinking and writing.

    I have seen the differences in college recognition of IB work first hand. My son attends The College of William & Mary, and only received a few college credits despite earning the full IB diploma. My daughter, who also earned the diploma, attends The University of Texas at Austin, and was awarded 24 credits because of the Texas law on the subject. The credits allowed her to jump into higher level courses, and may allow her to graduate early.


  4. MJ Hamilton on January 25th, 2010 6:31 pm

    Apparently, the state universites feel that students coming from AP programs are better prepared than those coming from IB programs. If the school board and PTSA want students to obtain the appropriate credit at college for the work they do and for parents to potentially save on tuition for their kids, why don’t they just make George Mason an AP school? Is AP not a rigorous program?

  5. Hillel Weinberg, Falls Church on January 25th, 2010 9:49 pm

    Lou, I think that one should have a better reason to support naked political interference in the academic judgment of a university faculty or administration than “we think it’s a good idea”.

  6. Lou Mauro on January 25th, 2010 11:38 pm

    Not to prolong this, but that is of course what legislative politics is all about: a majority of a legislature is persuaded to change somebody’s judgment about something because somebody else thinks “it’s a good idea.” You or I may not agree with the reasons given but, for better or worse, that is how the system works.

  7. Hillel Weinberg, Falls Church on January 28th, 2010 2:42 am

    I have spent most of my working life employed in legislative bodies and have heard my share of special interest pleading. Wise legislatures and wise legislators recognize the limits of their expertise and the appropriate role of other institutions — even if they possess the formal power to impose their will.

    I have more respect for the UVA, W&M, GMU, etc., faculty and administration than to go running to the General Assembly to override their judgment on what really is (or should be) a matter of academic, not legislative, policy. Should the legislature dictate the details of the curriculum of the universities as well as the details of their credit policies?

    If our students find problems when they turn up at UVA, perhaps the IB powers-that-be should try to understand why so many IB courses are not accepted by so many quality universities and deal with those objections, rather than work to impose IB courses on the universities.

  8. Ron Peppe on January 28th, 2010 4:05 pm

    Actually, in my experience, higher education is extremely political. It is not all about academic standards in a pure sense.

    AP and IB are both high standards, but very different concepts. IB is a more structured program built around writing, critical thinking and other skills. AP offers a broader array of individual courses. The full IB program imposes a number of requirements beyond just passing the tests.

    There are pros and cons to both approaches. For more information on IB, you can visit For AP, see


  9. Lou Mauro on January 29th, 2010 12:04 am

    Well, Hillel, I guess you do want to prolong this. So if you have spent most of your working life employed in legislative bodies you should know that Congress and State legislatures are asked to act on, and do act on, all manner of issues, including education and academic policy. Whether what they do or do not do is “wise” or not is a matter of opinion. What surprises me is that, out of all the legislative proposals regularly sent to Richmond, from harebrained to wonderful, you are so strongly against our local high school’s PTSA seeking help obtaining treatment in-State equal to out-of-State for our own City of Falls Church students.

  10. Cecily Shea, Falls Church on January 29th, 2010 2:48 pm

    I received an update from Asheesh Misra, GMHS IB Coordinator. He said that the Senate Committee did not discuss SB209 yesterday. They spent quite a bit of time discussing the infamous aka VA Labor Day Law aka “King’s Dominion Law” which limits schools to starting after Labor Day.

    SB209 is on the agenda to be discussed first next Thursday. So, there is still time to contact Senator Whipple.

    SB209 states “each institution of higher education shall have policies for course credit for standard and higher level International Baccalaureate courses that are comparable to its policies for granting course credit for Advanced Placement courses.”

    This language is different than what you will find on the VA Senate website. The language was changed in the sub-committee.

    Mr. Misra stated, “While this new language will not demand a specific amount of credit for IB students at VA Colleges and Universities, we believe it will inspire a more critical reflection of current credit policies and as a result positive change for our IB Graduates.”

  11. Gordon Theisz on January 29th, 2010 11:22 pm

    On the King’s Dominion Law, I like that schools start after Labor Day. There is never any question about when schools will start and this gives everyone one last hurrah of vacation with the three day weekend. It also supports Virginia businesses which would lose the critical $’s spent by Virginians in the week prior to Labor Day. Early June vacation sounds nice, but the weather is more summer-like in August. I would also bet that there is an energy savings. I wonder how that discussion went in Richmond?

  12. Cecily Shea, Falls Church on January 30th, 2010 7:51 am

    “I wonder how that discussion went in Richmond?”

    It must have gone long since the committee didn’t get to SB209.

    School systems are generally arguing against the King’s Dominion Law. They want to be able to set their own calendars based on the needs of their students.
    One of the arguments against it is that AP/IB testing is usually done by end of May. Students at schools that start earlier have more “seat time” before the exams.

    I think that starting before Labor Day will be hard to do in this area since so many parents’ jobs are tied to the schedule of Capitol Hill.