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College Board says it ‘revised’ controversial AP U.S. history framework (update)

In this Sept. 23, 2014 photo, high school students hold a protest against a Jefferson County School Board proposal to emphasize patriotism in the teaching of U.S. history, at Ralston Valley High School, in Arvada, Colo. The protests over the Colorado school district’s proposal to promote patriotism and de-emphasize civil disobedience in American history classes have found their way into the state’s marquee midterm election races, injecting a volatile issue two weeks before early voting ballots land in mailboxes across the state. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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(Update: More explanation of what changed on updated framework)

For weeks, the Advanced Placement U.S. history course based on a newly revised “framework” for teachers has been the target of intense criticism around the country from conservatives who charge that it is anti-American. While the Republican National Committee is attacking the resolution, saying the framework “emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects,” students and teachers in Jefferson County, Colo., are protesting a suggestion that the course be reviewed to ensure that it promotes patriotism.

Now the College Board, which owns the AP program, has published what is said to be a “revised” version of the “framework” for AP U.S. history (see full text below) to try to quell critics who say that the framework does not mention important American historical figures, including Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King, Jr., but spends some time on some of the darker episodes in American history. The revised version appears to include new instructions but not any changes in the historical content.

College Board President David Coleman and AP program head Trevor Packer have said that the framework is not a full curriculum and that teachers are supposed to use it to design their own curriculum and lessons. Critics, however, noted that the framework included language that seemed to suggest that the AP test would include only information included in the document. In mid-September Coleman promised to take some action by the end of the month.

Here’s what the College Board said in a recent letter that it was changing on its AP U.S. history page on the board website and in the AP U.S. History “Course and Exam Description”:

Action: By Sept. 30, 2014, we will clarify the instructions in the framework and make clear that:
The framework will also be released as a reformatted working document with columns for teachers to list the specific individuals, events, and documents they have selected for focus in their course.

A College Board spokeswoman said in an e-mail on Thursday that the changes specifically include Pages 9-10, and Pages 29-31 in the Course and Exam Description, where a new section called “How to Use the Concept Outline” has been added.  In addition, the document’s tag no longer says “Revised September 2014” but, rather, “Updated September 2014.” The spokeswoman wrote: “The revised tag is part of our standard editorial process, but we have in fact clarified these materials so wanted to be sure there was no confusion about that for other consumers of this content.” (I’ve asked the College Board to explain the difference between revised and updated and will add when I get it).

Also posted on the website is  The Curriculum Framework Evidence Planner. The spokesman wrote: “This document provides a reformatted version of the AP U.S. History Curriculum Framework Concept Outline to aid teachers in planning their own course. Space is provided for teachers to identify specific examples and content that they are choosing to use in their instruction to investigate the key concepts. These examples might come from standards established by state curriculum guides or by school or district requirements.”

The authors of the new framework recently issued a public letter (see text below) recently saying that the earlier outline was revised — for use in AP U.S. History classes this fall — in an effort to deal with complaints from AP teachers that the course had too much material that did not allow students to delve into any one subject at length. They said that criticisms about missing historical dates and figures were misguided because the framework is not meant to include everything students will learn.

Here’s the AP U.S. history framework, which was marked on Oct. 1 on the website as “Revised September 2014.” That tag was changed by Sept. 2 to say “Updated September 2014:”

 AP Us History Course and Exam Description[1]

Here’s the letter the authors of the new framework issued explaining their work:

Letter Us History[1]

And here’s the U.S. History practice exam Coleman released for the first time to show the breadth of questions asked: