There has been much recent discussion of an AP U.S. History (APUSH) textbook that targets Trump voters with, among other slurs, racism. This controversy illustrates a growing problem – that the College Board (owner and developer of AP courses) is not only indoctrinating students into a leftwing world view, but also usurping state standards and imposing its own national curriculum. Now that problem is seeping down into the lower grades with the newly announced “Pre-AP program.”
The College Board has virtual free rein to institute its own curriculum via AP courses. Few if any state education departments actually review AP frameworks and textbooks for alignment with state standards in the relevant subject area. Rather, they simply implement any revised AP framework in the classroom even if it conflicts with the curriculum standards set by state education officials. At a hearing in Georgia last fall, a state Department of Education official acknowledged that with respect to AP, the process is more rubber-stamping than review.
Consider also that for years the College Board has been working to get more students, especially low-income students, into its AP courses. As reported by Education Week, these efforts appear to be paying off. Between 2003 and 2016, the number of low-income students who took an AP exam rose from about 94,000 to over 554,000.
The result is that the curriculum for an increasing percentage of high-school students is controlled not by state or local education officials but by a private, unaccountable organization in New York.
And now the College Board has announced that AP’s reach will extend not only to grades 10 through 12, but also down to grade 9. The College Board’s new Pre-AP program “will include five new ninth-grade courses, with other courses to follow, open to all students . . . .” First out of the gate are Pre-AP Algebra I, Biology, English I, World History and Geography, and Visual and Performing Arts.
The College Board is pushing the Pre-AP program to “significantly increase the number of students who are able to access and complete college-level work [AP courses] before leaving high school.” It will accomplish this by opening Pre-AP courses to all students (unlike AP courses, admission to which may depend on academic performance or teacher recommendations).
According to Education Week, “schools already offering their own pre-AP courses will have up to five years to align them with the new requirements and submit them to the College Board for approval.” Thus will the College Board eventually remove a huge percentage of the secondary-school curriculum from state and local control.
The College Board’s takeover of high-school curricula bodes ill for genuine education of American students. The 2014 APUSH controversy illustrates how this will work.
APUSH was the first example of what has become a pattern for the College Board. Step one: Issue a revisionist framework that jerks instruction dramatically to the left. Step two: Wait to see if anyone notices. Step three: If there’s an outcry, make largely superficial changes to the framework while leaving in place the teacher training and revised textbooks (for example, the book slinging allegations of racism). The controversy dies down, though nothing really changes in the AP classroom.
The College Board repeated this cycle with its revised AP European History framework. Criticism of the leftist new “AP Euro” course – which, as an example, managed to discuss European history without once mentioning Winston Churchill – led to largely superficial edits to make the course somewhat more objective. But much of the leftist slant remained, and again, textbooks and teacher training that were adapted to the original objectionable revision are still in use.
Revised frameworks in other courses, such as Art History (which claims to view art through the prism of gender and ethnicity) and the recently released U.S. Government and Politics have not yet been thoroughly evaluated by objective scholars. Revisions to other courses are in the hopper. And we don’t know yet what future Pre-AP courses will be churned out in the image of the College Board’s creators.
Journalist Stanley Kurtz has warned about the College Board’s usurpation of state and local control in education: “We are swiftly headed for a situation in which a quarter, a third, very possibly well over 50 percent of high school students, will be taking so-called advanced placement courses whose guidelines, reading material, and teacher training seminars are all controlled by the College Board, a private company with no responsibility to the voters.”
With every passing year, it becomes more imperative to create an alternative to the politicized AP program. Then states could reassert the educational control that is quickly slipping away.