An Open Letter to David Coleman on Behalf of America’s AP U.S. History students

Mr. David Coleman
President and Chief Executive Officer
The College Board
45 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023


August 4, 2014

Dear Mr. Coleman:

As you know, there is a rising tide of opposition to the AP U.S. History Framework. Concerned citizens and elected officials are increasingly alarmed at the direction it will take our schools, our teachers, and our high school students.

Here is a very brief summary of the problems with the APUSH History Framework:

Flaws in the Framework

The new 98-page AP U.S. History curriculum is a dramatic departure from the five-page Topic Outline previously used by the College Board to guide the curriculum.

The new Framework inculcates a consistently negative view of American history by highlighting oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country. Instead of striving to build a “City upon a Hill,” as generations of students have been taught, the colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed “a rigid racial hierarchy” that was in turn derived from “a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority.” The Framework ignores the rise of democratic institutions such as the House of Burgesses and New England town meetings.  It also omits the colonists’ growing commitment to religious freedom and the emergence of a pluralistic society that lacked an entrenched aristocracy.

The new Framework continues its theme of oppression and conflict by reinterpreting Manifest Destiny from a belief that America had a mission to spread democracy and new technologies across the continent to something that “was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.”

The new Framework repeatedly ignores the heroism and sacrifices of America’s servicemen and women. For example, the Framework makes no mention of the sacrifices America’s Greatest Generation made to rescue much of the world from a long night of Nazi and Japanese tyranny. Instead, the Framework focuses solely on the negative aspects of America’s involvement in the war:  “the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values.”

Framework apologists have argued that the document is not intended to provide a comprehensive list of people and topics. But the expansion of the Framework from five to 98 pages makes it even more significant and troubling that American heroes such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson, Jonas Salk, Neil Armstrong, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., have been excluded. While the document does not have room for these heroes it does have space for Chief Little Turtle, the Students for a Democratic Society, and the Black Panthers.

Lack of Alignment With State Standards

The redesigned Framework sets a number of dangerous precedents. By providing a detailed course of study that defines, discusses, and interprets “the required knowledge of each period” the College Board has in effect supplanted local and state curriculum by unilaterally assuming the authority to prioritize historic topics.

State US History standards and the College Board’s new Framework are like oil and water – they will not mix. The old five-page Topic Outline provided a traditional baseline that did not conflict with state standards and in fact relied on the state standards for much of its content. The new 98-page document establishes a baseline so far to the left that it conflicts with virtually all state standards.

A correlation commissioned by the College Board revealed 181 post-Civil War items required by the Texas Standards that are not covered in the College Board’s new Framework. An analysis of the Georgia US History Standards revealed 132 Georgia elements that are not in the Framework. In addition, the College Board Framework contains at least 60 elements that are not covered in the Georgia Standards.

If overburdened APUSH teachers cover the missing material from state standards at all, they will necessarily do so quickly and superficially. The reason is that the Framework itself makes clear that nothing outside the Framework will appear on the APUSH Exam. Because their first responsibility is to prepare their students for that Exam, the teachers will focus on the often radical concepts of the Framework rather than on their state standards.

Lack of Instructional Resources

One year ago, APUSH teachers could count on using a wealth of high-quality materials to help them prepare lessons and evaluate student performance. The preparation materials included eight released tests with 680 multiple-choice questions. In addition, the College Board’s AP Central website provided a trove of valuable materials that included 26 Document-Based questions, 104 essay questions, and almost 400 graded student-produced sample essays. The materials are now all outdated by the new exam format.

The College Board has replaced these materials with just one Sample Test and no graded sample essays. This will not provide teachers with an adequate amount of preparation materials for a full-year course. The lack of a full complement of tests and sample essays will particularly handicap the growing number of new AP U.S. History teachers. And because access to this Sample Test is restricted to certified APUSH teachers, other educators such as homeschoolers will not have even this paltry resource for preparation.

Restore the Topic Outline and Revise the Framework

We recognize that the Framework was created before you assumed the College presidency. We still know very little about the process that was used to write the Framework. For example, its author or authors remain anonymous.

Many concerned APUSH teachers have raised questions about the Framework’s negative content and tone. They wonder how they can reconcile the twin goals of preparing their students to score well on the APUSH exam with the traditional goal of preparing their students to be well-educated citizens.

Our APUSH teachers should not be placed in this unprecedented predicament. We urge you to delay the implementation of the new AP U.S. History Framework for at least a year and reinstate the time-honored Topic Outline. The time can be used to form a new and more transparent committee to write a balanced study of American history that respects state curriculum standards and gives our students an unbiased picture of their country’s past.

[the undersigned]

The Petition Is Now Closed.