More God, Please

08.14.14

RNC to Congress: Investigate the AP U.S. History Exam

Not enough Founding Fathers! That’s the GOP’s outraged take on the College Board’s updated exam—and the party wants a formal probe. But the board says it’s all a misunderstanding.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of better advanced placement tests.

That seems to be the GOP mantra of late, at least. In a resolution adopted this month, the Republican National Committee picked a fight with the College Board, saying the AP U.S. History exam fails to adequately discuss “the Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the religious influences on our nation’s history.”

“The College Board (a private organization unaccountable to the public) has recently released a new Framework for the APUSH course that reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects,” the RNC said in the resolution. The committee is requesting a formal congressional investigation and threatening to withhold federal funding to the College Board, which receives millions of dollars from a number of states and the District of Columbia, until the issue is resolved.

According to a fact sheet provided to The Daily Beast by the College Board, the updated AP U.S. History exam is supposed to be “more flexible,” allowing teachers to build their own curricula state by state using seven pages of required “learning objectives.” The adapted course is set to be instituted in high schools nationwide this fall.

Until 2011, the AP U.S. History exam was the most popular advanced placement test among high school students; that year, more than 400,000 students took it worldwide, receiving college credit at a number of universities.

Although the RNC said it took issue with an update to the course’s framework, the College Board says that framework has not been altered since 2012.

“The framework has not changed,” said Carly Lindauer, senior external communications director for the College Board. The most recent update to that framework is from 2012, she added, and the board is still working with that document.

Asked whether any political parties influenced the changes to the exam, Lindauer said: “Our efforts to clarify the framework are in response to—as [College Board President] David [Coleman] noted—some ‘principled confusion’ from members of the education community and others.”

To alleviate concerns like those brought up by the RNC resolution, Coleman said in a letter Monday that he decided to release a full practice exam, in which “our founders are resonant throughout.”

Typically, these exams are released after the year’s test has been administered.

“The concerns are based on a significant misunderstanding.”

“We hope that the release of this exam will address the principled confusion that the new framework produced,” Coleman wrote. “The concerns are based on a significant misunderstanding.”

Concerned Women for America, an organization devoted to bringing “Biblical principles into all levels of public policy,” is spearheading the opposition to the exam, encouraging concerned citizens to meet face to face with state legislators to “educate them on the anti-American, leftist agenda of APUSH.” Other suggested action items include not letting students enroll in the course until the necessary changes are made.

A representative for Concerned Women for America did not respond to a request for comment.

American Principles Project, another group leading efforts to amend the exam, made headlines for participating in the recent March for Marriage, which promoted the union of one man and one woman.

The opposition to the exam comes as the U.S. Department of Education has announced plans to award $28.4 million in grant money to states to allow underprivileged students to take AP exams.

The opposition, it seems, is already making an impact. Coleman promised in his letter that the College Board would release practice exams from here on out to provide complete transparency about its content.

“For the first time, we commit to releasing the AP U.S. History Exam every year to the teaching community for consideration and deliberation,” Coleman wrote. “AP courses and exams are designed not by the College Board but by college professors and K­–12 teachers throughout this country; we are grateful for their work and will do more than ever to share the content with teachers, students, and parents.”