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apush mom

From the video: Without state push-back, this new APUSH Curriculum Framework will go into effect this fall (2014). Without state push-back, APUSH teachers may have to ignore their own state’s U.S. History standards if they hope to prepare their students for success on the new APUSH exam – which will NOT cover material outside the new Framework. (MEW note: This mom, who receives no special interest money to advocate for this new test, made a side by side comparison of previous tests and the current David Coleman inspired test)

The Advanced Placement United States History Course (APUSH) has come under intense scrutiny on the changes for 2015.  The College Board (headed by David Coleman, chief architect of the Common Core State Standards) has redesigned the test to reflect its alignment to the CCSS:

 

apush and common core

Who is opposing this shift?  Those on the left may believe the opposition is summed up only from the right as it complains about the discrepancy between state mandated curriculum vs the AP curriculum taught:

An analysis of 600 released APUSH multiple-choice questions reveals that they cluster around such important and universally taught topics as judicial review, the Monroe Doctrine, the Open Door policy, McCarthyism, and the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Because a student could achieve a top score of a 5 by correctly answering just two thirds of the exam questions, teachers were in fact not burdened with covering “an unlimited amount of material.”

So the College Board is using the alleged curricular pressure as a pretext to implement a curriculum that is completely at odds with the traditional APUSH course – which was designed to provide students with a balanced survey of the American experience while also preparing them for college-level courses in American history. “Balance” has disappeared. Students will learn a great deal about American oppressors and exploiters but little about the dreamers, innovators, and heroes who built our country.

The redesigned Framework is best described as a curricular coup.

The College Board now imposes detailed “required knowledge” that is very different from the curriculum mandated by state curriculum guides. For example, the College Board commissioned a group of Texas teachers to determine how well the mandated Texas state curriculum (Texas Essential Knowledge or TEKS) correlates with the redesigned APUSH Framework. They found a shocking lack of correlation. In Units 6 – 9 alone of the College Board Framework, the teachers found 181 TEKS elements omitted from the Framework. The Texas situation is repeated in many other states that will see their mandated history curriculum displaced by the radical, new APUSH Framework.

These discrepancies between the College Board Framework and state mandated curriculum guides will inevitably pose a serious problem for teachers and students. According to the Framework, “No AP US History exam questions will require students to know historical content that falls outside the concept outline” (page 2). Responsible teachers will thus be forced to choose between placing their students at a competitive disadvantage by following their state curriculum guides or ignoring their legal responsibility by following the College Board Framework.

However, some on the left have picked up on this same argument and offers more criticism of Coleman’s vision of AP History.  From Will “AP” Stand for “Assessment Prep”? In Which I Have To Take Back Some of the Nice Things I Said About AP Courses:

 

III. The Concept Outline

Uh-oh. Here’s the part that’s going to start to piss people off.

This breaks down the historical periods that teachers are supposed to use, and provides the conclusions that the students are supposed to reach. For instance:

Reinforced by a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority, the British system enslaved black people in perpetuity, altered African gender and kinship relationships in the colonies, and was one factor that led the British colonists into violent confrontations with native peoples. 

This outline is exceptionally specific, and notable for what it does and doesn’t include. It favors economic factors, and is not very interested in social or cultural matters. It isn’t interested in military history at all– wars appear briefly but little is said about how they are fought and won. The outline was also clearly not the product of any historians who believe in the Great Man theory of history– very few individuals appear at all. Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan are barely seen in relation to the historic moments associated with them. The closer we get to modern times, the more evident are the attempts to touch all the properly balanced or politically correct, depending on how you feel about such things. We cover Japanese-American internment camps, but not the national collective actions to support the fight against the Nazis. And if you think God helped make America great, you will not love the new AP version.

I’m not prepared to argue that any of these things absolutely need to be included in a summary of US history. It’s very much open to debate, or at least it’s open to debate any place other than in an AP History class. In this large section, the AP folks have imposed one specific reading of American history. Here comes the straightjacket of flexibility for AP History teachers.

Speaking of which, the section begins with a nice outline that tells us how much instructional time to devote to each period, and how much of the test will cover the indicated span.

IV. An intro to the test itself. Let’s let that be.

This is going to anger some folks on the right (and it should anger the left as well). The same people who think creationism should be taught in science class will object to this outline’s omission of America’s exceptional God-given role in the world, or the implicit criticism of America in some of the goals. They are wrong. Some things just have no basis in fact and there’s no reason for us to teach them in school.

But they will be right about one thing– they will call this course outline biased, and in that they will be correct. And when studying history, I don’t care whether your bias is widely accepted or Crazypants McFringebob– part of the whole point of doing history is the give-and-take, back-and-forth, argue-and-support of differing viewpoints about exactly what happened, why it happened, why it mattered, and what happened next because of it. Real authentic history is about the never-ending wrestling matches over these questions– not the learning to accept the answers that a current authority offers.

Beyond that– remember back at the top when the College Board said that one benefit of this reboot would be more time to study pieces of history in greater depth? Can we talk about the history of coming up with that claim, because it had to have involved being on some historically strong drugs. Who knew that AP would turn into the class where teachers said, “Boy, I’d like to continue this discussion, but it’s Tuesday and we have to move on the next unit right now.”

Somehow the College Board (now run by our old buddy David Coleman) has taken AP US History from a loose framework for college-level inquiry and deep freewheeling study and exploration to a hog-tied tightly dictated connect-the-dots learn by numbers course.

But teachers can rest easy, knowing that they will now be able to do a better than ever job of prepping students to take the US History AP test.

 

David Coleman has sponsored a webinar recently you can learn more about his vision for APUSH(Note to home schoolers: Access this link to determine if HSLDA is truly concerned with the Common Core effect on home schoolers.)

If you want to be part of a webinar that will tell you the truth about what this test really means (instead of a private organization’s PR talking points), sign up for it here: it is scheduled  for Monday, August 24 at 8:00 PM EDT and hosted by Jane Robbins, Larry Krieger and Dr. Peg Luksik.  Sponsored by New Yorkers United for Kids.  Dial 605-562-3131, Code 755157#

Here’s another issue of concern about APUSH posed by Kreiger and Robbins in Why Won’t the College Board Reveal its AP U.S. History Authors?:

 

Who actually wrote the College Board’s Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) Framework? Since this Framework will govern how American history is taught to about 500,000 students in over 8,000 high schools every year, we asked the College Board to reveal the names of its authors. This is the biased, poorly written and ineptly organized document that has raised alarms from state and national leaders.  After repeated requests, the College Board finally responded by posting this statement on their AP Central website: “The professors and teachers {are} listed by name and institution on page v of the AP US History Framework.

 

When you turn to page v of the Framework you will find the names of 19 different college professors and high school teachers who served on two College Board Committees. Significantly, the College Board does not identify these professors and teachers as “authors.” Instead they are simply listed under the heading “Acknowledgments.”

 

Attending workshops, exchanging emails, and posting comments on the College Board’s electronic discussion boards is not the same thing as being credited as an author. According to the Journal of American History, the title of author is reserved for people who actually write a document.

 

So once again, who actually wrote the College Board Framework? We still do not know, but we now know who didn’t write it: the 19 people listed under the title “Acknowledgments”! We know this as a fact because Dr. Fred Anderson, one of those 19 educators, admitted in a letter to the Colorado State Board of Education that, “neither I nor Christine Heyrman (the other early Americanist on the Commission) had any hand in drafting this Part, so I can only guess at why the examples that appear were chosen.” The “Part” Dr. Anderson refers to includes the actual course content on pages 28 – 77.

 

So if Dr. Anderson does not know who chose to include the Black Panthers and exclude Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, then who did make this choice? In an article published by The Daily Caller, Blake Neff writes, “The Board’s refusal has fueled speculation that the standards may have been authored by very left-wing college professors, or possibly by ordinary grad students working as freelancers rather than by full professors.”

 

The identity of the Framework’s authors is not a trivial matter that can be left

unexamined. It would be irresponsible and contrary to academic integrity for an elected state or local Board of Education to adopt a controversial curriculum written by anonymous authors. The United States’ best and brightest high school students deserve far better instruction in their nation’s history.

 

Why is education reform written by private organizations and clothed in secrecy?

 

Published on August 24, 2014

 

 

 

 

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