School Choice Weekly #91
Fifty-five top historians have signed an open letter criticizing the College Board’s revamp of its Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum, in which half a million of the nation’s brightest students enroll each year. It is the final U.S. history class many ever take.
The National Association of Scholars, which coordinated the letter, notes: “Lynne Cheney, Bruce Cole, Patrick J. Deneen, Robert George, Leon Kass, Victor Davis Hanson, and Harvey Mansfield signed the letter, among several dozen other prominent scholars.” Their letter says:
The College Board’s 2014 Advanced Placement Examination shortchanges students by imposing on them an arid, fragmentary, and misleading account of American history. We favor instead a robust, vivid, and content-rich account of our unfolding national drama, warts and all, a history that is alert to all the ways we have disagreed and fallen short of our ideals, while emphasizing the ways that we remain one nation with common ideals and a shared story.
The College Board has so far dismissed critics of its curricular rewrite as nitpicking, right-wing rubes. It turns out serious, credible scholars agree with the critics. This means people like Stanford University scholar Peter Berkowitz are right to forecast trouble for America if College Board retains its curricular monopoly over high-school classes that can lead to college credit. He writes:
By obscuring this nation’s founding principles and promise, the College Board’s U.S. history guidelines will erode the next generation’s disposition to preserve what is best in the American political tradition. It will also weaken students’ ability to improve our laws and political institutions in light of America’s constitutional commitment to limited government, individual liberty, and equality under law.
Academic integrity would require College Board to improve and un-bias its rewrite. A central reason it would not is that College Board is a monopoly provider locked into many American schools by exclusive contracts with states and schools. So it’s not susceptible to market pressure. It’s susceptible to and can itself wield political pressure. The best way to ensure private entities like College Board cannot dictate to local schools the opportunities they can offer students is for at least one other competitor to arise and challenge College Board with better products.
SOURCES: National Association of Scholars, RealClearPolitics.com
IN THIS ISSUE:
- NEVADA: Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed the nation’s most expansive education savings accounts law, which applies to all children in the state who have attended public school for at least 100 days.
- INDIANA: Indiana’s tax credit scholarship law allows for the smallest credit in the nation and limits families to picking only full schools rather than blending education offerings. If it were expanded as a new report recommends, Hoosier taxpayers could save $137 million over the next decade.
- LOUISIANA: Attorneys for a group of African-American parents spar with those for the Obama administration over whether the federal government has the right to demand private information to monitor Louisiana’s voucher program.
- WISCONSIN: The legislature’s budget committee has approved a measure to expand charter schools and grant them more benefits, including money, access to public buildings, and autonomy.
- DEATH: “Within five years of their launch, Common Core’s mediocre academic standards are in shambles,” , writes former U.S. Education Department official Ze’ev Wurman. “States are running away from them, other states are trying to hide their participation in them by changing their name, and almost half of the states in the nation have abandoned the federally sponsored consortia.”
- MISSOURI: The governor has signed a law banning national Common Core tests, sending education administrators searching for a quick replacement.
- ARKANSAS: The governor has accepted a recommendation that the state drop national Common Core tests and instead use ACT-branded tests to measure Common Core. This brings the number of states involved with federal testing organization PARCC to nine.
- OREGON: A federal official threatened the state with the loss of $140 million if lawmakers pass a law that would require schools to tell parents they are free to excuse their children from tests.
- DIVERSITY: Resistance to Common Core and its tests comes from families who have a broad spectrum of ethnic and economic backgrounds, National Journal finds. And leaders of several civil-rights groups write an op-ed concurring.
- WEST VIRGINIA: The legislature is once again considering a bill to repeal Common Core and jettison its national tests.
- MARYLAND: A source within the governor’s office tells the Washington Post the newly elected Republican is not likely to move towards ditching Common Core or its tests, despite suggesting otherwise on the campaign trail.
- NCLB: House Republican leaders plan to bring up for a vote this month an unaltered version of a big-government bill to replace No Child Left Behind. Earlier this year, they pulled it from a vote because enough conservatives refused to vote for it that it was not likely to pass.
- NEW SAT: The College Board has released four samples of its redesigned SAT college-entrance exam. This article gives a thorough overview, but here’s a poignant quote: “For a test touted as an ‘evidence-based’ exam, virtually no statistical evidence on its psychometric integrity has been made available yet.”
- NEW JERSEY: Just 3 percent of teachers statewide have been marked “ineffective” or “needing improvement” on New Jersey’s expensive new teacher evaluation system, which relies partly on student test scores, as demanded by the Obama administration.
- DATA COLLECTION: The federal government will begin collecting information about children’s behavior and soft skills such as persistence in its next administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
- BULLYING: For all the hype about cyberbullying in the past several years, a new study has found young people consider it easier to manage than in-person bullying.
- NEW HAMPSHIRE: Students’ smartphones can predict their grades if researchers use them to track students’ locations and nearby noise levels.
- NORTH CAROLINA: A three-judge panel rules the legislature cannot alter teacher tenure because that would change the terms of teacher contracts.
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