Policy Documents

Responses to Larry Krieger and points made in http://education-curriculum-reform-government-schools.org/w/ (The Report Card), Heartland.org, etc.

Trevor Packer –
April 9, 2014

The following is a document an official at the Georgia Department of Education forwarded, as written by Trevor Packer, a vice president at College Board. 

 

Background information:

Both the critique in The Report Card and in Heartland are from Larry Krieger – the Heartland article (Robbins and Krieger) gives an introduction and then simply reprints Krieger’s critique from The Report Card. Krieger is a former AP teacher who has authored a number of test prep books for AP history and the SAT (see responses on his background below). Much of what he mentions are issues that have come up before in various interactions with AP teachers who dislike the framework. In both The Report Card and in the Heartland piece, the critique is tied in with fears about Common Core and the idea of a national history curriculum. Accordingly, although we can provide justification in general for many individual decisions made in the framework about coverage by referencing the expectations of higher ed, the responses below are intended to stress the idea of local and teacher flexibility.

 

Criticism:  Some topics/individuals are missing from the Framework:

Talking Point:  The Curriculum Framework is just that – a framework to help guide teachers’ instruction, rather than a detailed curriculum or course plan 

Krieger’s attacks on the Curriculum Framework reflect a misunderstanding of the purpose and nature of the document.  The Curriculum Framework is just that – a framework to help guide teachers’ instruction, rather than a detailed curriculum or course plan. Most of the dozens of topics or individuals that Krieger finds “missing” from the Framework, such as Sinclair Lewis, Dorothea Dix, or the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, have never been specified as required content for the AP Exam in any document released by the College Board. It is hard to imagine such individuals or topics being presented in anything but an exhaustive, textbook-like treatment of every conceivable fact, individual, or development in American history; such a document would amount to the mandated curriculum that the author purports to oppose. Instead, the Curriculum Framework is intended for AP U.S. History teachers, who can be expected to be familiar with such topics and know how to best address them intelligently in their own instruction.

When Krieger finds topics mentioned that he presumably does agree should be in the American history course, he interprets the framework as suggesting that related aspects of a topic should not be taught. In Period 9, Krieger wonders why “Reaganomics” is not specified as essential content – as though it were possible to teach about the Reagan presidency without mentioning economic policies. The “conservative groundswell” of the 1970s is mentioned, but Krieger is disappointed that it is not explicitly connected to Reagan’s election. Krieger is troubled that the attacks of September 11, 2001, are mentioned but al-Qaeda is not. Again and again, Krieger pretends that history teachers – or any intelligent, informed reader – would not know that they needed to discuss these topics in the classroom, unless they are spelled out in a textbook-like treatment directly prescribed by the College Board and assessed on College Board-administered exams.

 

Criticism:  Inclusion/addition of various topics for supposed reasons of political bias:

Talking Point:  Many of the patterns of political bias that Krieger detects turn out to not exist. Krieger singles out some details while ignoring others.  Krieger then ignores parts of the Curriculum Framework that he finds inconvenient for his argument

Many of the patterns of political bias that Krieger detects turn out to not exist. Krieger declares that giving 5% of the course to the period 1491 to 1607 is a “highly unusual” and “extravagant” innovation designed to turn this into a course on “Western Hemispheric History.” Yet Krieger is no doubt well aware that the previous Course Description for AP U.S. History began by describing Native American societies prior to Columbus, and that AP Exams have long included questions on this period and topic. In this way the Curriculum Framework reflects the fact that virtually every high school and college American history textbook begins with Native Americans and their settlements in America, and that they devote many pages to European efforts at exploration and settlement in the New World. (Surely if the course began in 1607, Krieger would condemn the curriculum for neglecting to mention the importance of 1492 and early European colonization.)

Krieger then ignores parts of the Curriculum Framework that he finds inconvenient for his argument. He asserts that the Framework “completely ignore[s] both Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy” in the period 1800-1848, missing the bold heading for Key Concept 4.1: “The United States developed the world’s first modern mass democracy” – hardly a statement that fails (in Krieger’s words) to address the “origins, development, and extension of America’s commitment to democratic rights.”  A similar situation exists for the many battles supposedly neglected by the Curriculum Framework (which, again, have never been mandated in the AP U.S. History course or exam). The framework actually gives strong and detailed emphasis to the causes, courses, and outcomes of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. For example, the framework calls out the Confederate leadership’s “initiative and daring” during the war as well as the Union’s strategies and “key victories.” Krieger is evidently troubled that the framework does not spell out every battle of these wars in a textbook-like fashion, unconcerned that this approach would not allow teachers to go into depth about wartime battles and events that may be meaningful to local teachers and students.

 

Criticism:  Inclusion of topics for reasons of political bias

Talking Point:  College professors most often endorse the curriculum framework’s careful and balanced incorporation of different perspectives on American history.

Krieger is troubled by the effort of the Curriculum Framework to provide nuance and depth to the treatment of various American history topics. For example, he singles out the mentions of the Japanese internment camps during World War II as an example of an unhealthy interest in “victims” on the part of the framework. This is a topic that is covered in every single U.S. History college and high school textbook today, and one would not think that its mention would arouse controversy. But Krieger is concerned that this account reveals “little interest in positive achievements and the theme of unity and cooperation” during the war. Yet the very next sentence of the Framework stresses the “technological and scientific advancements” and “popular commitment to advancing democratic ideals” that allowed for U.S. victory. In this and many other places, Krieger disparages the type of nuanced language used by historians in assessing complex historical events. The AP Program, however, has found that professors endorse the curriculum framework’s careful and balanced incorporation of different perspectives on American history.

 

Criticism:  The AP USH CF is part of a CB “takeover” of history education (Robbins and Krieger article in Heartland.org):

Talking point:  AP curricular frameworks are developed by committees comprised of higher ed faculty members and experienced AP teachers and validated by college department chairs.  In the case of US history, the curriculum framework was published prior to Coleman’s becoming president of the College Board.

Robbins and Krieger seek to portray the Curriculum Framework as the beginning of a national takeover of American history education. The framework actually accomplishes the opposite. While seeking to specify a set of required topics and practices that will enable students to meet the expectations they will face in college-level history courses, the framework leaves as much discretion as possible with teachers and districts about how to productively explore these topics with their students, and still meet existing state and local requirements for American history courses.

Saying that the Curriculum Framework is designed to “supplant” local and state curriculums makes no sense, given that fewer than 450,000 students took the AP U.S. History Exam in 2013, out of a total estimated high school student population in the U.S. of over 16 million students. Schools and districts are free to choose to offer AP courses; students are free to elect or take or not take the AP Exam; and colleges and universities make their own decisions about granting credit and placement to students who succeed on the exam.

The allegation that the Framework is part of a “Common Core Clique” [mentioned in the intro to Krieger’s piece at The Report Card] headed by David Coleman is belied by the fact that the Framework was published prior to Coleman’s becoming president of the College Board.

 

On Krieger’s own background:

Krieger is a prolific author of “Crash Course” guides to a number of AP courses, the SAT, and the SAT-II. As someone deeply invested in the test preparation industry, Krieger cannot be expected to welcome the way that AP courses and exams are being revised to emphasize inquiry and depth at the expense of memorization. His perspective only makes sense once one recalls that Krieger’s publications emphasize a test-prep, memorization mentality that will no longer be privileged in revised AP exams.