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Georgia picks fight with College Board over AP history. Guess who loses again? Our children.

Both my twins are in AP U.S. History this year, and I'm impressed with the depth of the course. They are learning far more about American history than I ever did.

The goal of the class is understanding our history, the good, the bad and the ugly -- and America has it all.

But a resolution in the state Senate – sponsored by the same coastal lawmaker who attempted last year to not only rid Georgia of Common Core, but of any test or class that reflected a national effort – calls for AP U.S. History to be outlawed if the College Board does not present a more sanitized view of American history.

The resolution states:

WHEREAS, approximately 14,000 Georgia students take the College Board's Advanced Placement U. S. History (APUSH) course each year; and WHEREAS, the APUSH course has traditionally been designed to present a balanced view of American history and to prepare students for college-level history courses; and WHEREAS, the College Board has recently released a new framework for the APUSH course; and WHEREAS, the new APUSH framework reflects a radically revisionist view of American of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects; and WHEREAS, 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; and WHEREAS, the framework presents a biased and inaccurate view of many important themes and events in American history, including the motivations and actions of seventeenth to nineteenth century settlers, the nature of the American free enterprise system, the course and resolution of the Great Depression, and the development of and victory in the Cold War; and

WHEREAS, the framework differs radically from the Georgia Performance Standards for Social Studies; and WHEREAS, despite offering revisions and clarifications to the framework, the College Board has made no substantial changes to the themes and key concepts of the framework, thus requiring all content to be taught in alignment with those themes and concepts;

That the State Board of Education instruct the College Board to return to an APUSH examination that aligns with the restored APUSH course and that respects and incorporates the Georgia Performance Standards;

That if the College Board does not comply with these requests, the State Board of Education and the Georgia Department of Education cease expending any state funds on professional development activities, textbooks, or other instructional materials aligned to APUSH; That if the College Board does not comply with these requests, the Georgia congressional delegation is urged to push for reduction or elimination of federal funding for the College Board;

That if the College Board does not comply with these requests, the Governor is directed to contact other governors of several or all states to join Georgia in its suspension of funds to the College Board; and That if the College Board does not comply with these requests, the State Board of Education and the Georgia Department of Education are directed to explore alternatives to the College Board's Advanced Placement program that would allow Georgia students obtain college credit by mastering the content dictated by Georgia standards and that the Governor would seek reciprocity among several or all states and urge them to do likewise.

In supporting the resolution, new state school chief Richard Woods continues his mantra about standards that are “Georgia-owned and Georgia-grown.”

I often get emails from newcomers interested in my view of metro school districts. Coming here from states with higher average school performance, they worry about the quality of schools, both public and private, in Georgia.

As an editorial writer, I talked to CEOs of companies newly relocated to Georgia who explained, while their transferring employees were thrilled with housing prices in Georgia, they were wary of the schools. I have also had folks in the tech industry tell me the reputation of Georgia schools dissuades some top innovators from bringing their expertise and their start-ups here.

“Georgia grown and owned” doesn’t impress people when they look at how the state fares on national comparisons. The slogan may make for good politics, but it doesn’t make for good schools.

If Georgia students led the world in academic performance, I would say puff, posture and preen all you want about Georgia owned and grown.

But we don’t lead the world or the country. We never have.

Like the rest of the South, Georgia has never been an academic leader, an outcome of entrenched poverty and an indifference to the importance of an educated populace.

Now, we are trying to shed that past and improve the odds for our children.

So, we ought to be studying the states and nations that outperform us and learn. Our children will be competing with students from those places for jobs. They have to be on equal footing.

Georgia is attempting to improve its schools, although politics keeps derailing the progress. Taking on the College Board over APUSH makes us look provincial.

And I will bet a latte and apple fritter the only states willing to pull their students out of AP are other low-performing ones. Parents in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey – with higher AP participation and college-going rates– would not tolerate state lawmakers meddling with their children’s academic futures.

APUSH is not mandated in Georgia. It's a choice, typically made by high-performing students eying UGA, Tech or a select private college.

I don’t understand why the Legislature is meddling in AP courses since they have no control over content. I guess they got tired of politicizing the Georgia curriculum.

In writing about schools in Georgia since 1997, I have seen few instances of where General Assembly interference benefited students. In the last few years, most of the General Assembly's actions have been designed to appease special interests, not help students. Lawmakers are not looking to make progress; they want to make points.

This is another example.

Here is Richard Woods’ statement in support of Senate Resolution 80:

“I am in agreement with Governor Deal and the State Board of Education that our Social Studies – and Science – standards must be Georgia-owned and Georgia-grown. We will conduct a full review of our Social Studies standards to ensure that they have proper focus on the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and all aspects of American History.  We will also forge partnerships to supply every 5th grader in Georgia with a pocket Constitution so the foundations that built our great country are easily accessible to them.

I have deep concerns regarding the College Board's new Advanced Placement U. S. History (APUSH) framework and testing. I fully support SR 80’s move to ensure that Georgia’s students are being taught using the very best history standards possible. Any opportunity for our academic or our nation’s historical integrity to be eroded must not be allowed.

One important issue to note in Georgia is that all students, including our Advanced Placement (AP) students, must take the state end of course test in U.S. History. That means, regardless of what may be missing from the AP frameworks, our students will be taught the foundational principles found in our Georgia standards and will be required to demonstrate that knowledge on our state test.  This will provide our state the ability to address some of the APUSH shortcomings.  However, more must be done.

Though this is a short-term solution, SR 80 provides steps to address the long-term problem of high school students not being taught key people, events, and documents that are the cornerstone of the history of our nation. I applaud the members of our General Assembly for working together to protect the education of Georgia’s students.”

And here is the College Board’s response to this effort:

The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program has a 60-year history of delivering excellence in education to millions of students across the country.

College faculty and AP teachers collaborate to develop, deliver, and evaluate AP courses and exams. Their partnership ensures that these courses align with the content and rigor of college-level learning, while still providing teachers with the flexibility to examine topics of local interest in greater depth.

Because they trust AP, more than 3,300 colleges and universities across the globe use AP Exam scores for credit, placement, or consideration in the admission process.

At the root of current objections to this highly regarded process is a blatant disregard for the facts. Despite the principled engagement and unwavering cooperation of the College Board in addressing concerns, the most vocal critics have prioritized their own agenda above the best interests of teachers, students, and their families.

The redesigned AP U.S. History course and exam have the highest support of the history profession, with strong endorsements from the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the National Council for Social Studies, and the National Council for History Education. As important, the redesigned AP U.S. History course has received overwhelming support from AP teachers nationwide, and is currently in use in classrooms across the country. The College Board has the greatest confidence that AP U.S. History teachers understand how to reflect state and local requirements and the great story of America in their instruction.

In the face of these attacks on our long-standing and highly respected approach to developing college-level courses, AP teachers and students, our member institutions, and the American people can rest assured: The College Board will not compromise the integrity of the Advanced Placement Program.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.