AP World, US, and Euro changing the game

Although history may be set in stone forever, the College Board and West’s History department are now making more history with new curricula and course offerings. This year’s juniors, who were subject to the momentous shift in the AP U.S History curriculum last year, can understand the similar changes that are currently in effect for AP European History and planned for AP World History next year.

In 2006, AP teachers voiced their frustration over how little time there was to delve into major ideas and concepts in history. Dislike for the feeling of rushing through time periods began the initiative to revise the College Board’s AP curriculum.  As the largest of the four AP groups, AP U.S History was the first to be revised. Despite the controversy that erupted over whether the curriculum was too left-wing, West moved forward with the new material and finished the year well.

“It has the potential to be a great curriculum, even better than the one before,” said West’s AP U.S History teacher Mr. Britton.“[The College Board] tried to reduce the feeling that you had to cover every last thing.”

The test’s multiple choice section now includes a document for every question, requiring both critical thinking skills and thematic knowledge of the content.

“The essays are also a little bit broader now. You can bring a lot more evidence into them,” said Britton. “They no longer focus on something you spent three minutes on in class--the essays were so specific before.”

The changes for AP European History are in effect this year with similar intentions to that of AP US History.

“[The College Board] is narrowing down what has to be taught, they’re [becoming] more transparent, so that it’s clear what concepts must be understood for the AP test” said AP Euro teacher Paul Stellpflug. “You could teach 20 or 25 philosophers and have no idea what one’s going to be on the test.”

AP Euro student Beyann Alzoubi adds that another big change to AP Euro at West is the new textbook, replacing the typical Robert Palmer book.

“Palmer was almost like the face of AP Euro,” said Alzoubi. “We now have a new book that seems pretty good. It looks like a much easier read, and not as complicated and wordy as Palmer.”

The addition of AP World History is another change that AP teachers and students are very pleased with. AP World History teacher Michael Allen explained the variation between World Cultures and AP World is significant.

“AP World is like a whole different animal. There’s a significant difference in workload, time commitment, pace, and the depth of knowledge and skills gained. While World Cultures focuses more on the modern day with enough history to understand it, World History is 8,000 BCE to present. You’re really working at a college freshman rate rather than a highschool freshman rate.” 

Just down the hall, another group of students is taking a different route of social study. In Level one of Global Academy, students take the standard Freshman class of World Cultures that provides background for modern events and the history circulating them. With this school year being the second running of the program, sophmore students are now taking AP Euro as opposed to AP US History.

“We decided to flip those around so that the students could have a background of world history and current events to help them better understand AP US History their junior year,” said Global Academy teacher Mrs. Heinen. “Since we have a little more time to prepare students and get them into the AP mindset sophomore year, students will understand the concept of studying and the rigor of an AP class better.”

 Both Heinen and Britton believe the presence of upperclassmen in AP US History will be a positive influence on younger students and create a well-rounded environment. Second year global academy student Carly Coons believes that due to the rigor of AP Euro more time is being invested in the Academy’s history portion.

“The new textbook is well-written and easy to understand if you go through paragraph by paragraph,” said Reed. “But Euro is much more challenging than World Cultures was, but I’m looking forward to the end of the year when I can say that I succeeded, knowing how much hard work was put into it.”

The College Board is now well on its way to aligning all the AP History curriculum with US History, becoming more transparent and allowing more time to be devoted to major concepts, people, and ideas. However, Stellpflug sees one drawback. While avoiding the game of ‘Trivial pursuit’, memorizing facts is still an integral part of displaying a mastery of content. What needs to pass the test of time, he acknowledges, are critical thinking skills, writing techniques, and studying skills.

“It’s more important to know how to think than merely memorize facts.” said Stellpflug.

With major changes revolving around the Social Studies department, this chapter in the Wildcat history book has yet to completely unfold. Britton reflects on his first year teaching the new US curriculum; a reflection of hope and optimism.

The first try is never as good as you want it to be, but the students still did well. I’m truly looking forward to the future of this curriculum.”

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