Letter to the Board of Education for Jefferson County Colorado Public Schools

The AHA has been following the controversy over the College Board’s revised curriculum framework for Advanced Placement US History. In August, we released a statement in support of the way the College Board’s framework encouraged historical thinking, and in September, Executive Director James Grossman published an OpEd piece in the New York Times emphasizing the importance of historical thinking to active and engaged citizenship. Last week students in Jefferson County Colorado began to walk out of class to protest their School Board’s proposal [PDF] to review the AP Curriculum. The criteria for review state that the curriculum “should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law” and “present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

Yesterday the AHA sent the letter below to the Jefferson County School Board, reiterating the importance of historical thinking to active citizenship and applauding the community engagement displayed by the students.

JeffCo School Board letter 5

JeffCo School Board letter 6

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  1. Glenn Hefley

    This Never had to happen. This was created by design.

    First off, thanks for reading this.

    There has been a serious deal of misinformation presented. It hurt Texas, it threatened Colorado and it is now giving you pause. I’ve been researching this for more than a week now and not only has there been a serious breach of trust, but I believe it is intentional as well.

    The AP US History Framework is not what you have looked at or heard about. Please stay with me for three more paragraphs. These instructions describe the use the Framework from the College Board Web site:

    The AP® Program unequivocally supports the principle that each individual school must develop its own curriculum for courses labeled “AP.” Rather than mandating any one curriculum for AP courses, the AP Course Audit instead provides each AP teacher with a set of expectations that college and secondary school faculty nationwide have established for college-level courses.

    AP teachers are encouraged to develop or maintain their own curriculum that either includes or exceeds each of these expectations; such courses will be authorized to use the “AP” designation. Credit for the success of AP courses belongs to the individual schools and teachers that create powerful, locally designed AP curricula.

    The AP U.S. History course should be designed by your school to provide your students with a learning experience equivalent to that of an introductory college course sequence in United States history. Your course should provide students with the analytic skills and factual knowledge necessary to deal critically with the topics and materials in U.S. history which you choose to employ.

    So, there is no Liberal or Conservative Lien to the AP. There is no Hard Line or Patriot Line or Christian Line either. AP is giving the expectations in clear language — a Framework, of what current college standards require. Your schools, or your board will decide on the lessons and text to be used to fulfill those expectations in instruction with the student.

    The web page describes this process in full, but do note that the second step Step 2 offers Sample data, but that is only so you can get an idea of what data you are going to supply the test. Obviously Nebraska’s History and what Nebraska feels is historically important is going to be far different than Florida, or Washington. Yes, most of the 1776 days are going to be similar, but you may feel that the Awakening was much more important to note than the Puritan or the Enlightenment events. Jefferson’s attitude toward Washington and Adams (threatening secession a couple of times while he was Governor) is true, but may not be relevant to your lesson plan.

    The important thing is that the student is able to learn critical thinking and college level learning skills. The first file is Course and Exam Description. Again, it is filled with Sample data — not Nebraska data — only enough so that the Description makes sense when you are reading the Course Description and looking at the Exam.

    This all seems very obvious now, and I apologize if I’m stressing the SAMPLE data too much…. So, if it has always just been sample data, how did this get so messed up with Texas and Colorado? The answer is Larry Krieger, owner and designer of InsiderPrep, and former AP History teacher.

    Larry Krieger first came into my sphere in a article on News Week. There he is interviewed and he has serious concerns about the AP US History course. The course was too Liberal, it showed the USA in a bad light. It focused on degrading times, but not on the restoration of those times. While it taught US History and the facts were correct, it also came across as Anti-USA, Anti-Business, and Anti-Industry.

    I read this with interest (this was before Colorado, I was researching around for the novel I’m currently writing. AP Classes were a big thing for me, and I’ve always felt grateful for the opportunities they have offered someone will to press themselves.

    Most of the article Larry seems basically what he is, a 62 year-old retired History teacher. He looks like that too. Mostly harmless, and he is obviously upset. These courses meant a lot to Larry and he was taking this very personally. And.. well.. .so was I. It felt a little backhanded to see these examples and to hear his description.

    Two things stuck wrong with me however, and I couldn’t figure out why they were so glaring to me until days after Colorado (Texas is already happening and at that time I was completely unaware of the events going on down there).

    Larry reads into one of the questions on the sample test that the message the student is going to hear is — “Capitalism free of government regulation would improve social conditions”—even though that would be the opposite of what the Progressive movement believed. The author of the article picks up on this too, but lets it slide. I try to let it slide, but I can’t. He’s a History teacher. I’m not there of course when he says it, but I can hear the the strain and nervousness in his voice (being a novelist has some visual mental side effects).

    The the author of the article says “…also disagreed with the College Board over how children should learn, with Krieger and his allies preferring a curriculum based on memorizing facts to one based on critical thinking.”

    That just sticks and it won’t go away.. but since there is no clear or present danger, there is nothing to do or say about it — though I did try to use it in one of my comments.

    A few days later, I’ve nearly forgotten about Krieger, Colorado hits.There is the AP US History again. Same thing. Same issues. I do some research and I find Krieger there as well. He addresses the Colorado State Education Board Sept 10, 2014. I’m hooked. I can’t let go of this now.

    I quickly uncover Texas. It’s way too late, but there is Larry and all of his friends. And the AP program is off the map. Gone. Also, Texas is getting new text books. I read the reports from the evaluations for accuracy. I’m a Christian,but I believe in the First Amendment — the separation of church and state. I also do not believe that Moses was at the creation of the Constitution. Now, I’m more than a little worried.

    I go through the AP US History. I can’t find any seriously insulting parts. You really have to read into it to go that far. Way to far really. I mean it Could be liberal.. maybe.. if you held it up to the light and squinted. But nothing like what I’m reading in the articles written and propagated across the web by Larry.

    Then I find it.. and everything makes sense Larry is a business owner. His business is InsiderPrep, I read “40 chronological chapters that follow the College Board’s AP US History Course Description outline.”

    Wait.. which Data Sample? But it is a Framework, not an Outline. And then it all makes sense.

    You are going to populate Nebraska’s AP Framework with your Study History Text, focused on Your points of importance. How is Larry going to be able to write a study guide for that?

    Larry is out of business..

    He played it off that the Sample Data was in fact Representative of the Questions and Answers you could expect on the final test, during the interview. He was really nervous though, because everyone was calling it sample data — which he knew meant “filler data” He made that slip, and the author and I at caught it, but didn’t connect it, and no one else has either.

    The Sample Data is Filler Data, that is all. It represents nothing. Larry is building a case with it though, in an attempt to get AP to go back to the previous format, when in fact this format is much better for your state and everyone else. But the Framework of 2014 puts him out of business.

    I understand, but I don’t forgive. He’s taking away the opportunities from a large population of kids who worked their asses off so they could be In AP this year. . These are smart, hard working, dedicated young men and women who deserve every break we can give them.

    Larry is swindling. He doesn’t care about Nebraska, or Texas or all those kids in Colorado.

    So.. that’s the whole of it. I hope I have been of some help. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

    Glenn Hefley


    1. John Leland

      I am not deeply involved in the AP History controversy, but I am deeply disturbed by the idea that the controversy is about whether “historical thinking” is more important than “memorizing facts.” The plain reality is that meaningful historical thinking is impossible without a solid factual background. AP history is supposed to be about preparing students for college survey history courses. I teach such courses and have taught such courses for many years, and my experience is that many of my students are arriving in my classes without the basic factual knowledge needed to discuss historical questions. I recently encouraged students in my history class to watch the PBS series The Roosevelts. One of them, after watching it, was still under the impression that Franklin Roosevelt was the son of Theodore Roosevelt. That is by no means the worst example I have experienced. I once asked an essay question about
      European nations, and one of my students wrote the essay about China because she believed that China was in Europe. I fully respect that there are significant controversies within history, and that history must be taught with an awareness that even matters which one generation may believe to be settled matters of fact may turn out to be challenged by new research. But at the same time, I think that before students attempt to evaluate sources and evolve their own opinions on historical controversies, they must first have mastered a body of knowledge based on the current scholarly consensus. That consensus will, of course, change over time, but those of us teaching in high school and in college history survey courses need to devote a large part of our time to ensuring that the students master the needed knowledge before they engage in historical thinking. Truly meaningful debate over sources and interpretations occurs primarily in upper-division undergraduate courses and graduate courses among students who are have already mastered the basic knowledge and are ready to move beyond it. AP history should be primarily about ensuring that students have gained the knowledge they will need to participate in historical thinking, not
      about historical thinking as such.

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