The College Board wants to cut thousands of years from its AP World History test. Teachers aren't having it.
Posted June 22, 2018 7:44 a.m. EDT
(CNN) — If you ask the company that runs the Advanced Placement tests, it'll say it was trying to do world history teachers a favor.
There's just too much history to cover and not enough time. So why not cut thousands of years from the AP World History test -- and start at the year 1450 instead?
If you ask the teachers, they say such a move leaves out key events from the past, such as the massive Mongol Empire and the Middle Ages, and presents a very Eurocentric view of the world.
That's a battle that's brewed for a month between the two sides.
Now, the College Board -- the company that owns the AP program -- is offering a compromise: it's going to figure out a way to start "several centuries" earlier than 1450. It just doesn't know how early.
And until the board decides in mid-July, teachers are unlikely to be satisfied.
"Even if they push back the gate a bit, we won't be satisfied," said Merry Wiesner-Hanks, who leads the World History Association and formerly developed the course and the test.
"Students -- and really, people -- need to see the bigger picture and the long history of the past."
The board's view
The College Board is an American nonprofit that administers AP tests in various subjects that high school students across the country take to get a leg up on college credit.
The AP World History test, as it exists, covers a wide gamut of time periods -- from the hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era to 20th century political and social change.
Last month, the board announced it would cut thousands of years from the material and would start the test at the year 1450. The change would take effect in the 2019-2020 school year.
The scope of the course was just too broad, the board says.
Eight in 10 AP World History teachers reported it was impossible to teach the entire course in a year, College Board spokeswoman Jaslee Carayol said.
For instance, on last year's exam, she told CNN, 70% of students didn't get a single point on one of the essay questions.
To fix this, the board proposed splitting the current AP World History curriculum into two separate classes that students could take over two years.
The first course would cover material from 600 B.C.E. to 1450 -- but it still wouldn't be on the AP World test.
Another catch: those course materials aren't free, and only students in schools that can afford both will have access to the entire historical timeline.
"And students have only so much room in their schedules," said Wiesner-Hanks, the World History Association president.
The teachers' view
Since the board's announcement, teachers and students around the country protested the change, saying the test curriculum they're left with is Eurocentric.
"The story starts with European exploration and colonization," Wiesner-Hanks said. "And it becomes the people from all of the other parts of the world reacting to the Europeans getting there."
One of these nationwide protests took place earlier this month in Salt Lake City, Utah, where a group of history teachers spoke out at a public forum where AP program chief Trevor Packer was speaking.
"You cannot tell my black and brown students that their history is not going to be tested, and then assume that that's not going to matter," one teacher said at the forum. "Their histories don't start at slavery. Their histories don't start at colonization."
In New Jersey, a high school student started a Change.org petition asking Packer to undo the decision. The petition now has more than 10,000 signatures.
"The class is demanding on students, but is also one of the most rewarding, life changing classes I've ever had the privilege to take," the petition reads. "Without periods 1-3, a historical foundation can't be built, and they are some of the most important in history."
The next step in this battle is in July when teachers wait to see what the board ultimately decides.
"Given how dissatisfied teachers have been with the current breadth of the course, it's all the more powerful when they speak up to defend keeping content within the course," Packer told CNN. "By working with AP World History teachers and our higher ed partners, we will find a way to shift the start date several centuries earlier while still ensuring that students and teachers no longer have to race through the course."