One of North Carolina’s largest school districts is condemning the College Board’s new Advanced-Placement History curriculum, which has direct ties to Common Core, calling it a deeply biased, inaccurate and revisionist version of American history.
David Coleman, known as the architect of the Common Core national standards and its chief pitchman, is the president of the College Board, a private company based in New York that owns the SAT and ACT exams as well as the Advanced Placement, or AP, exams and curriculum.
“Coleman is now re-writing every College Board product to align with Common Core,” said Meg Norris, a retired public-school teacher in Hall County, Georgia, and an anti-Common Core activist in that state.
The College Board not only owns the AP curriculum but it administers the AP standardized tests nationwide to K-12 students, measuring their readiness to attend college. Coleman’s ties to the controversial Common Core national education standards and the AP course’s new take on American history has come under fierce criticism.
National Review reported the College Board under Coleman is “politicizing” the teaching of American history. The course aims to teach history from an internationalist perspective, in line with the views of NYU professor Thomas Bender.
“Bender is a thoroughgoing critic of American exceptionalism, the notion that America is freer and more democratic than any other nation, and for that reason, a model, vindicator, and at times the chief defender of ordered liberty and self-government in the world,” writes Stanley Kurtz for National Review.
The New American called Coleman’s latest product a “rewrite” of American history and chastised it as “a brazen effort to teach ‘history’ through what analysts describe as a ‘progressive’ lens.”
“Instead of focusing on actual U.S. history, for example, critics say the radical new Advanced Placement (AP) history curriculum represents hard-core Marxist indoctrination. Among other concerns, a growing roster of opponents argue that the new scheme hypes and exaggerates real or imagined wrongs while presenting everything in a collectivist mold. Meanwhile, it downplays and ignores virtues and goodness in America’s historical development and its experiments with liberty and self-government.”
Mercedes Schneider, in her new book, “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Education,” devotes an entire chapter to Coleman and his reformist policies. She says Coleman, through his business interests, has a huge financial stake in the success of Common Core nationwide.
“David Coleman, the man with zero classroom teaching experience who is credited as ‘the architect’ of (Common Core), had connections to No Child Left Behind via his and fellow (Common Core) ‘lead writer’ Jason Zimba’s first company, Grow Network, which analyzed NCLB-related testing data. McGraw Hill acquired Grow Network (and with it, Coleman as president) in 2004,” Schneider reported in a May 2014 blog. “However, in 2007– the year that NCLB was evidencing belabored breathing– Coleman (and Zimba, perhaps) started a new, national-standards-writing company (which turned nonprofit in 2011), Student Achievement Partners.”
New Hanover also was a catalyst in a statewide uprising among state school officials against Common Core, resulting in a law, signed July 22 by Gov. Pat McCrory creating a commission to replace those controversial standards.
The company’s AP history course requirements have been deemed deeply flawed by critics. Among the topics omitted from the course are figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. George Washington is reduced to only a passing reference about his farewell address, and the nation’s founding documents largely are excluded from the material.
Lindalyn Kakadelis, director of education outreach at the John Locke Foundation, says the way the course is offered likely violates state law, reported the Carolina Journal.
State Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash County, told the Carolina Journal he would like to know more about the alarms being sounded by New Hanover County Schools and critics across the nation.
WND has reported numerous stories about criticism of Common Core math, English and social studies lessons.
The math and English standards have been implemented in most states, but the social studies standards are still in development. However, WND reported Saturday that an early sample of the Common Core history lesson was rolled out in California in which the teacher compared the Declaration of Independence, America’s founding document, to a high-school break-up letter. The lesson, which incorporated principles of “critical thinking” given high priority under Common Core, emphasized that there is no single right answer. Rather, students are graded on how well they defend their answer.
Collins was a co-sponsor in 2011 of North Carolina’s House Bill 588, the Founding Principles Act, requiring all North Carolina high school students to take a semester-long American history class focusing on founding principles and documents.
New Hanover school-board members say the State Board of Education and the state Department of Public Instruction are allowing students to substitute the third-party AP U.S. history course, which contains virtually no mention of the nation’s founding documents, for the state-required classes.
“That would be a concern to me, obviously,” Collins told Carolina Journal.
“If, indeed, they are de-emphasizing the original documents, that’s exactly contravening the purpose of the legislation,” Collins told the Journal. “It was to make sure [students] did know what our founding documents were all about.”
Collins said he always encourages people to read original documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and Constitution to view in the Founding Fathers’ own words what they believed.
“That’s what I’d like to see the students presented, not some 21st-century author’s opinion about the Founding Fathers or what their purpose was,” Collins told the Journal.
Don Hayes, chairman of the New Hanover school board, said board members hope the resolution will raise awareness among other school districts to the objections.
“I just think it’s not a fair view of American history, the history of this country, and other board members share that same sentiment,” Hayes, a former history teacher and assistant principal in the school district, told the Journal.
“I think that unfortunately you have in this country people who are not proud of the history of this country. They want to turn things around, and to me it’s very concerning,” Hayes, a Navy air crew veteran who did two tours in Vietnam, told the Journal. “That’s why we as a board have taken the steps we’re taking.”
Opponents in Texas, Alabama and South Carolina are attempting to have the AP history curriculum removed from their schools, and Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, said the AP material appears to play up a “victim mentality” in its treatment of American history.
“There appears to be this kind of a victim mentality throughout,” Hayes told Carolina Journal. “I was just frustrated with the way things were presented and the things that were left out.”
If the troubling aspects of the curriculum are not corrected, Hayes said, “we have the option of just not offering it.” Dropping the course this school term was considered, but school-board members decided it would be too disruptive so close to the start of school.
Instead, the district sent letters to parents of students who elected to take the course to make them aware of the board’s concerns. They are being given an option to transfer their children into another course.
“We’re also making them aware we have no control over the course,” Hayes said.
“Do we want an outside force we can’t control? Is that the direction the state wants to go?” Kakadelis asked.
“The extensive framework that’s now given is something that’s new to the College Board, and new to AP teachers,” Kakadelis said.
Other critics also have called this a “curricular coup” portending “dangerous precedents” for all AP classes.
Kakadelis said it is unsettling that the College Board switched its AP history supporting material from a five-page, general outline for AP teachers to an expansive, 98-page course design downplaying positive American ideals and achievements.
While teachers can add items to the College Board’s AP curriculum, both Hayes and Kakadelis say that is unlikely to happen, and teachers will be limited in their ability to insert other material into lesson plans. That is because AP classes are designed to help students pass the AP exam and earn free college credits, “and so what teachers are going to focus on is what’s on the AP exam,” Kakadelis said.
However, Dartmouth College announced in 2012 it is not accepting any more AP credits. It does not believe the AP classes contain the rigor, resources, context and professorial direction a student needs. Kakadelis raised the possibility that other colleges and universities could follow suit.
Last year, 11,000 North Carolina students took the AP history exam. More took the elective course than took the exam, because the exam is required only to get the college credit, not pass the course.