Texas limiting new AP history course's influence
Sep. 17, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Amid uproar in conservative circles about perceived anti-American bias in the new Advanced Placement U.S. History course and exam, Texas on Wednesday moved to require its high school students to learn only state-mandated curriculum — not be taught to the national test.
The Board of Education approved a measure declaring that the history curriculum its members set trumps that covered by the AP history course created for classrooms nationwide. That class concludes with an exam that can earn college credit for students who score high enough.
The board must still take a final vote, but the measure's content isn't expected to change.
The controversy stems from the recent overhaul of the AP test, administered by the New Jersey-based College Board, that was meant to de-emphasize memorization. The new exam will be given for the first time in May and includes a lengthy framework to help teachers better-prepare students for the requirements.
Conservative activists, though, have decried the new course, the teachers' framework and even the exam itself as rife with liberal themes and focusing on the negative aspects of U.S. history. Some have even likened it to "mind control" engineered by the federal government.
Board Member Ken Mercer, a San Antonio Republican, called for Texas to delay implementation of the new AP test in Texas. But since the board has no jurisdiction over a national test, members compromised with Wednesday's measure.
In 2013, about 47,500 Texas high school students took the AP History exam, and about 18,600 earned college credit. AP History students this year will still take the new exam, but will prepare for it by studying Texas-sanctioned curriculum.
Debbie Pennington, senior education manager for the College Board, said the new course and exam were designed to be flexible enough to conform to curriculum standards in different states. She said she was confident that history courses in Texas can prepare students for the new AP test while also adhering to the state's curriculum standards.
"You've got to honor local control and the states and those individual teachers to support what their states are asking," Pennington said.
Mercer said the new exam and course framework ignore such American civil right icons as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez, while sanitizing lessons on World War II.
"In World War II there's no Holocaust, no liberation of concentration camps," he said. "It's mentioned in Texas, but not in the (national) framework."
But other board members, including Patricia Hardy, a Weatherford Republican, defended the new exam as eliminating "a lot of minutia and nitpicking" details contained in the original, heavily multiple-choice exam.
Still, Hardy voted in favor of the measure because it reaffirms Texas' commitment to its own curriculum. Another member who supported it, San Antonio Democrat Marisa Perez, said it's "really not changing anything," only spelling out what's already occurring in classrooms.
"I think we need to teach history as it happened and not change it," Perez said.