College & Workforce Readiness

Ga. Lawmaker Calls Advanced Placement U.S. History Course ‘Revisionist’

By Liana Loewus — February 05, 2015 2 min read
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The noisiest tumult over the College Board’s new framework for the Advanced Placement U.S. History course has moved from Colorado to Georgia.

Last week, Republican state Sen. William Ligon introduced a resolution calling on the College Board to return its previous course framework. The resolution states that the new framework, which was released in 2012 and put into place this school year, “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

It further claims that the framework “minimizes discussion of America’s Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the religious influences on our nation’s history, and many other critical topics that have long been part of the APUSH course.” The resolution threatens to pull state funds for materials aligned to the new course.

Georgia’s superintendent of schools, Richard Woods, has said he supports the move and shares “deep concerns” about the new framework and exam.

The changes to Advanced Placement U.S. History, or APUSH, have rankled conservatives in a variety of places.

The Republican National Committee condemned the framework in August. That group’s resolution uses the exact language (i.e., “reflects a radically revisionist view...”) as the one proposed in Georgia.

The Texas state board of education approved a measure in September requiring high schools to teach the state curriculum rather than the AP U.S. History framework laid out by the College Board. Some Texas board members sought to block the new AP exam statewide, but the board lacks jurisdiction to do so.

The College Board has responded to the complaints by releasing a full-length practice test and by clarifying that the framework is not a full curriculum, and that teachers are meant to populate the framework with more detailed content.

“Many of the comments we have heard about the framework reflect either a misunderstanding of U.S. history or a very limited faith in history teachers’ command of their subject matter,” the College Board wrote in an open letter. “The Curriculum Framework was written by and for AP teachers—individuals who were already experts in U.S. history and its teaching.”

Perhaps the most widely covered debate on the new APUSH framework took place in Jefferson County, Colo., last fall. There, the school board proposed setting up a committee to review the framework, with the goal of ensuring it promotes patriotism and downplays civil disobedience. Hundreds of students responded by walking out in protest. Many teachers, also concerned that promoting patriotism would amount to censorship, called in sick and used personal days en masse. Four schools were forced to shut down.

As I’ve written, the new APUSH framework is more specific about what students should learn than the previous one. Under the old framework, which was only five pages long and read like a list of topics, teachers felt pressured to try to teach every historical detail since they had little clue what would be on the test. The new framework is closer to 80 pages and has more description but fewer topics overall. It also more closely reflects the Common Core State Standards, which David Coleman—now president of the College Board—helped write.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.