2015 Legislative Watch: H.B. 1380 - Proposed amendments to the Oklahoma Advanced Placement Incentive Program and new academic standards for U.S. History

H.B. 1380, a proposed bill in the Oklahoma State Legislature regarding Advanced Placement U.S. History courses offered in public schools, is receiving widespread media attention after the February 17, 2015 vote by the Common Education Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives to allow H.B. 1380 to proceed for further consideration. Although the current language of the bill appears limited to U.S. History, there is some speculation, based upon comments by House Common Education Committee members, that similar prohibitions related to other AP courses may be forthcoming.

In addition to establishing new academic standards and requirements for U.S. History courses taught in public schools, the bill proposes to amend provisions of 70 O.S. 1210.703, the statute that establishes the Oklahoma Advanced Placement Incentive Program. The Oklahoma AP Incentive program provides state funding for public schools to provide rigorous AP coursework and administration of the AP exams necessary for students to earn college credit for AP coursework. The bill's proposed amendments would prohibit the State Board of Education from awarding grants or expending state funds for "equipment, instructional materials, course development, professional examination or training, examination awards or examination scholarships" for public school AP U.S. History courses "until the College Board changes the framework for the course and reverts back to the course framework and examination that were used prior to the 2014-2015 school year."

The proposed prohibition on state funding of public school AP programs is significant, because AP programs allow public school students (and their parents) to save money on college tuition by permitting students to earn college credit for AP courses while the students are still enrolled in high school. In addition state funds are currently used to provide financial assistance to low-income students who may not otherwise be able to afford the College Board's fees for the AP exams that are necessary to successfully earn college credit for the course.

The proposed legislative rationale for the bill's necessity involves objections some legislators have to the new curriculum framework for AP U.S. History that was recently introduced by College Board for implementation during the 2014-2015 school year. Supporters of H.B. 1380 argue that the new AP U.S. History standards are too similar to Common Core academic standards, and therefore the bill is necessary to ensure high school history courses comply with the 2014 enactment of H.B. 3399 - which repealed use of Common Core academic standards by Oklahoma public schools. Supporters of the bill have also expressed concerns that the College Board's AP standards could potentially undermine state-developed academic standards.

Opponents of the bill argue that H.B. 1380 jeopardizes AP programs used in public schools to help high school students earn college credit for successful completion of the AP examinations for AP courses. Because advanced coursework is a factor that many college admissions officers and committees consider positively when reviewing applicants' high school transcripts, critics also argue that HB 1380 could jeopardize college admission opportunities for Oklahoma students, especially those college-bound students with aspirations of attending selective universities.

Oklahoma Legislature Bill Information for HB 1380: http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=hb1380&Session=1500

Text of H.B. 1380 (2015) as introduced: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2015-16%20INT/hB/HB1380%20INT.PDF

College Board's AP Website: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/home

College Board AP U.S. History Curriculum Framework:

https://advancesinap.collegeboard.org/english-history-and-social-science/us-history

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