The “Open Letter from the Authors of the AP United States History Curriculum Framework” raises a number of important issues. Here is our response to the key points raised in this “Open Letter,” followed by a list of 29 biased and ill-considered statements from the Framework, and a list of 17 omitted seminal documents about U.S. history.
1. Who wrote the College Board’s AP U.S. History (APUSH) Framework?
The nine members of the College Board’s Advanced Placement United States History Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee identify themselves as the authors of the APUSH Curriculum Framework. However, page v of the Framework lists 19 college professors and high school teachers under the heading “Acknowledgments.” There is a significant professional difference between the terms “Acknowledgments” and “Authors.” If the nine signers of the “Open Letter” are indeed authors who wrote the APUSH Framework, the College Board has a responsibility to revise its misleading attribution on page v. In addition, since one other professor who was listed under “Acknowledgments” admitted he didn’t know who actually wrote the Framework, there remains significant confusion about who really created the working drafts that the signers of the Open Letter used.
2. For whom was the APUSH Curriculum Framework written?
The Open Letter authors state that the Framework “was written by and for other AP teachers.” This statement ignores that the Framework prescribes the essential content that will be taught to about 500,000 high school sophomores and juniors. These students are the sons and daughters of parents who have a direct stake in what is being taught to their children.
The “by the profession, for the profession” approach endorsed by the Open Letter authors also excludes civic leaders who are not specialists but are deeply concerned about how U.S. history is taught to American high school students. Including people from outside the academic world would have added to the Framework’s credibility and might have saved the document from its egregious problems.
3. Why does the Framework omit key American leaders and seminal documents?
The Open Letter acknowledges that the Framework omits Benjamin Franklin, Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King Jr, and many other key figures in American history. They accuse critics of “misunderstanding our document.” Unfortunately, we have not misunderstood anything; the document is clear. The Framework devotes pages 28 to 80 to a detailed outline of the “required knowledge” students are expected to learn in their AP U.S. History course. The Framework unequivocally states, “Beginning with the May 2015 AP U.S. History Exams, no AP U.S. History Exam questions will require students to know historical content that falls outside this concept outline” (emphasis added).
The Framework is a lengthy document that provides more than enough space to include key figures and seminal documents from American history. Neither the College Board nor the Open Letter authors have explained why the Framework does have space to include Chief Little Turtle, the Students for a Democratic Society, and the Black Panthers, but does not have space to include Dwight Eisenhower, Jonas Salk, and Martin Luther King Jr. The omissions have been widely criticized. But once again, College Board officials and the Open Letter authors have adamantly refused to revise the Framework or delay its implementation.
4. What will critics find when they examine the AP Practice Exam?
The Open Letter authors invite critics to examine the just-released AP Practice Exam. They contend that reviewers will find “a rich and inclusive body of historic knowledge.” In reality, reviewers will find an exam that tests a surprisingly limited range of topics. Since every exam question is firmly anchored in the Framework, the test does not include questions on Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King Jr, and numerous other historic figures.
President Ronald Reagan is the only historic figure who actually generates specific questions. In one question, Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” quote is used to reflect “increased assertiveness and bellicosity.” In another question, President Bill Clinton’s ideas on “big government” are associated with ideas expressed by Reagan.
It is important to compare the lack of key figures on the Practice Exam with the inclusion of key figures on previous APUSH exams. An analysis of eight released exams revealed seven multiple-choice questions on Thomas Jefferson, five on William Lloyd Garrison, seven on Theodore Roosevelt, four on Dwight Eisenhower, and six on Martin Luther King, Jr. This predictable clustering of questions on key figures and events enabled teachers to efficiently prepare their students for the APUSH exam.
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