Now that the 2013 – 2014 school year is in their rearview mirrors, thousands of AP US History teachers are focusing for the first time on the College Board’s new “redesigned” APUSH Framework. Many teachers are shocked and dismayed by what they are discovering. A number of teachers have written us letters expressing their concerns about the new Framework.
One teacher returning from the APUSH exam reading in Louisville reported that about 90 percent of the teachers are either “very skeptical” or “hate” the new Framework. Perplexed AP US History teachers across America are asking why the College Board made such drastic changes and what, if anything, can be done to delay implementing the new Framework.
Trying to head off teacher opposition, the College Board is advancing dubious arguments for its radical restructuring of APUSH. College Board spokespeople claim that “the lack of specificity” in the old AP Topical Outline “put pressure on many teachers to cover every detail of American history.” This often-repeated claim is inaccurate. The Topical Outline was not an encyclopedic list of facts, people, terms, and events, but rather stressed pivotal events and significant people. These key topics generated most of the APUSH exam questions.
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.
AP US History teachers and students should not be placed in this unfair and possibly illegal dilemma. The College Board is an unelected body that is in effect usurping legally mandated state curriculum guides. Concerned parents and teachers must demand that educational and political leaders call upon the College Board to delay the implementation of the APUSH Framework by at least one year. The time can then be used to form a new committee charged with writing a Framework that is consistent with the AP program’s traditional goals and with state curriculum guides.
Jane Robbins is the senior fellow of APP Education of the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
Larry Krieger is a retired AP U.S. History teacher from Pennsylvania.