by Lindalyn Kakadelis
Executive Director, North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools
The College Board is responsible for Advanced Placement courses in high schools (public and private) across the country. These courses are designed for the best and brightest students. High school students receive college course credit if they obtain an acceptable score on the AP exam in a particular subject. The College Board’s Advanced Placement U.S. History course for the 2014-15 school year consists of a new, redesigned, 98-page, detailed Framework document instead of the previous five-page topical outline used by teachers.
Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow with the American Principles Project, and Larry Krieger, retired AP U.S. History teacher, write:
This change in format is best described as a curricular coup that sets a number of dangerous precedents. By providing a detailed course of study that defines, discusses, and interprets “the required knowledge of each period,” the College Board has in effect supplanted local and state curricula by unilaterally assuming the authority to prioritize historic topics.
This inevitably means some topics will be magnified in importance and others will be minimized or even omitted. If concerned parents, educators, and elected public officials do not speak out, the College Board (led by David Coleman, generally considered the architect of the Common Core national standards) will continue to develop similar frameworks for its 33 other Advanced Placement (AP) courses and thus become an unelected de facto legislature for the nation’s public and private high schools.
The Framework’s focus on pessimistic aspects of our country’s history leaves a student feeling ashamed of America. The article states:
The Framework consistently emphasizes negative events while ignoring positive achievements. For example, although it does not mention the sacrifices U.S. civilians and armed forces made to defeat fascism, it does recommend teachers focus on “[w]artime experiences, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb [which] raised questions about American values.”
While the Framework is questionable, even more concerning is the AP History Exam. As we all know, exams drive what is taught to students. Last week in National Review Online, Stanley Kurtz wrote:
While the College Board has publicly released a lengthy “framework” for the new AP U.S. History Exam, that framework contains only a few sample questions. Sources tell me, however, that a complete sample exam has to be released, although only to certified AP U.S. History teachers. Those teachers have been warned, under penalty of law and the stripping of their AP teaching privileges, not to disclose the content of the new sample AP U.S. History Exam to anyone.
This is clearly an effort to silence public debate over these heavily politicized and illegitimately nationalized standards. If the complete sample test was available, the political nature of the new test would become evident. Public scrutiny of the sample test would also expose potential conflicts between the new exam and existing state standards. This is why the College Board has kept the test secret and threatened officially certified AP U.S. History teachers with severe penalties for revealing the test.
Teachers, parents, and concern citizens should contact their local Boards of Education, and particularly our NC State Board of Education, to express their views. According to Robbins’ interview with Dick Morris, state boards of education could ask the College Board to delay implementation and use the previous standards and exams for another year. This would give time for the public to become aware of these changes, and request revisions.