The ostensible reasons for opening the AP to all are to encourage poor and minority students to reach higher and to close the “achievement gap.” The initiative has succeeded in the last ten years at more than doubling the number of students who take at least one AP course (up to 2.1 million in 2012).
Because some students take exams in multiple subjects, the number of AP exams taken has also soared, from 1.2 million in 2002 to 2.9 million in 2012.
The rate of students who “pass” the exams varies from about 55 to 70 percent by subject, with some outliers, such as Advanced Placement Chinese, where more than 94 percent of the exam takers received a 3 or better in 2014. So a lot of the less talented students who have flooded into the AP courses do not end up either winning college credit or placing out of required courses.
In Computer Science, the figure was 67.6 percent; Calculus AB, 57.7 percent; English Literature and Composition, 56.0 percent; and U. Most of those who fail the AP exams probably pass the high school course, so one possible response is, “Why does it matter? The AP courses themselves are inevitably diluted by the presence of many students—roughly half the class—who are not suited for an advanced course.
This “preliminary report” is, as the label indicates, a first step.
The changes in the course and in the exam were several years in the making and involved contributions from a thirteen-member “AP U. History Redesign Commission” and a nine-member “AP U. History Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee.” Because Advanced Placement courses and exams play a very significant role in American higher education, I decided as president of the National Association of Scholars to take a close look at the new course, exam, and “curriculum framework.” My colleagues and I at NAS are concerned about the quality of preparation for college that American high school students receive; we are especially concerned about the preparation received by students who attend the nation’s best-regarded colleges and universities; and we have a particular interest in the standards set in the study of U. History, which is one of the foundations for American citizenship.
Sometime during the winter of 2013/2014, the College Board released AP United States History: Course and Exam Description, Including the Curriculum Framework, Effective Fall 2014—which I will refer to as “APUSH.” APUSH, the document, represents a complete overhaul of the Advanced Placement course in U. S History and the Committee that developed and assessed the curriculum clearly put a great deal of time and effort into creating this new approach.
The members of the Commission that redesigned AP U.
Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. history is given cursory treatment and some ideological themes are sounded rather loudly.
In its later days, the College Board has decided that its “mission” is not to advance standards but to assist students, and it has gone so far as to project back to 1900 the idea that its role was to “expand access.” That pretty clearly was not President Eliot’s idea. History (APUSH) Curriculum Framework. It is, in many respects, a dispiriting document. In view of the many, many faults in American K-12 education, should the College Board’s hapless revision of the Advanced Placement framework in American history occasion special concern? There are bigger problems, but this is one of those small problems that signifies larger things. Advanced Placement courses occupy a significant place in the ecology of American education.