Dear Mr. Packer,
I sincerely appreciate the need for a civil and professional discourse regarding the looming reduction of historical context that our students will be learning due to this redesign.
I hope, I sincerely pray, that your intentions tonight were not to offend anyone. I believe your intentions weren’t to alienate and belittle the people who work so hard for our students and the college board. I set aside time from my family tonight to watch this hour long live stream of the forum because I was hoping to see an organization that would take feedback from its inner circle. I am grading SAQs from Austin this week. I, like many other teachers of AP course I know, take hours away from my personal life, my family’s lives, to dedicate time and energy to improving my craft and serving the wonderful students of Connally HS and every other kid I come in contact with. Hours from my spouse, our dogs, and my own sanity. I decided to dedicate yet another hour of my life I will never recover watching the Forum.
Sir, respectfully, your tone of voice was no where near respectful from the beginning of your speech. You decided to “address” what you perceived to be our main concerns before listening to the people in the room. I understand that and it was the appropriate tack to take. However, the tone of you voice...your facial expressions...your disregard of our valid concerns set the stage for the disaster of a Forum I just witnessed. It was combative. It was belittling. It was perceived from my perspective that you clearly stated we could not comprehend what the College Board was doing and why. Which, frankly, is dismissive.
It was dismissive of you to say that we don’t need months of heads up to effectively plan. A wonderful woman pointed out that the redesigns in APUSH have been clumsy, and that she wanted the transition in WHAP to go smoother. Instead of listening to that valid concern, you stated that we didn’t understand that the redesign wasn’t going to change curriculum. Do we not have the right to ask for more support in a quicksand or ever changing redesigns?
It was dismissive of you to say that the time we spend away from our families is essentially our choice. It was dismissive of you to respond to what is frankly righteous frustration on our part of constant redesigns that “this isn’t a redesign”. No matter the verbiage you use...this is a redesign. A re focus. A re branding. A flushing out. It’s a change. It’s a change on the tail end of so many changes my head is spinning. It’s my fourth year teaching this course. I have gone through two (at least despite all the other “clarifying” information the Cb has put out) in those four years. I am looking down the sawed off shotgun of yet another. After reassurances from the CB itself that WHAP would be left alone for awhile.
I believe in the College Board. I believe in AP. I recently attended the Dream Deferred conference in Houston. Just a few months ago. I loved being able to talk to other people as passionate about equity, access, and cultural relevancy about how we DO THAT in WHAP. About how students learn about the world before the domination and destruction of Europe. About how their faces light up to learn about a history they have never been exposed to before. I have fought for AP. I am bringing an entirely new AP Social Studies course to my district next year, Comparative Government and Politics, and I am so excited about it. I take joy in my craft. I think that AP is wonderful.
I heard you. I heard you so many times tonight say that the CB believe sin periods 1-3. That you think that WH should be taught over two years. That CB values it and wants to spend more time. Mr. Packer I believe you when I hear you say that. I hear you when you say that your data supports this decision.
I have also taken Statistics classes. My first day of a Stats class at Baylor I was told a very important lesson by the professor. “Statistics can be shaped and skewed to say whatever you want them to say”. I have never forgotten that. I wonder who exactly was allowed to given feedback about this idea that the CB has undertaken. Who made up the survey group? How many were there? Were they from a range of backgrounds? Ages? Social classes? Races? Religions? Also this data that was collected, was it collected for the purpose that you used it for? Were people made away that their answers would be used for this decision? If not...doesn’t that poison the sample data?
Additionally, I heard you state many times tonight that your decision was driven by what kind of college credit that a student could receive for this course. Gosh, that is valid. As a person who is personally drowning in student debt from a college counselor in my high school that pushed me into a four year college, because I was “too smart” for community college I hear you. I feel that on a spiritual level. They kids do deserve more credit for the work they do. It is a hard course. A challenging course. It is a course that, like you mentioned, is often the kids first introduction to an AP course. I feel strongly though that in addressing this issue the College Board took the way fork in the road. Instead of cutting the course because colleges only give one credit...why wouldn’t Cb push colleges to give two semesters of credit the way they often do in APUSH? Why was that not a part f the conversation here tonight?
Mr. Packer, I would love to live in utopia. I would love it if I could teach the hybrid geo/history course for periods 1-3 that Pre AP is planning and offering and then teach the WHAP course as a second year. My goodness, that would be absolutely wonderful. However, I unfortunately live in Texas. Not Utopia. I work in a Title 1 school, not an elite charter school that can do whatever it wants. I teach low income students who come from challenging backgrounds of drugs, sex, trafficking, violence, hunger, and poverty. I teach students who don’t come from challenging backgrounds as well. Do you know what those students have in common Mr. Packer? They want college credit. They want a higher GPA to help them get into the college of their choice.
I want you to put yourself in the schools of a 13-14 year old incoming freshman. I want you to think not about our budding historians, we will get those kids anyway. I want you to think about the struggling students who grew up dreaming of being the first person they know who will go to a college. Heck, maybe even graduate high school. I want you to think about being told about this class, this Pre AP class that will be difficult. It will be hard. It will be challenging and an echo of a college curriculum. It will be a baby step to the second half of the course which they can take college credit for. They can learn the history of the world. OR they can take this others course, say AP Human, which they can actually get college credit for. Not only that, it is a higher GPA boost than the Pre AP course you can take. Now tell me.....what course would you pick? Which one is the getting way to college credit?
I think that your repeated statements this evening of student being able to take Pre AP and go take AP are utopian. I think they are not based in reality. Honestly, I don’t even think that’s based in common sense. Now I want you to also imagine that this kid is being pushed towards STEM classes as a more direct route to college. What makes them want o take the Pre AP/ WHAP route? As much as I have always adored history, having come from two generations of military men who fought in WW2 and Desert Storm, who has always devoured any book she could on history....I would not have made that choice at 14. I would have taken Human, then WHAP, then APUSH, and then Gov/Eco etc. I would have done that, Mr. Packer, because it is the most direct route to college credit and a higher GPA.
Mr. Packer, I want to be on your side. I want to be on the side of the College Board. I want to be on the right side of history. I want to be a scholar and a historian who shares my loves of a multiethnic, multi perspective, and multicultural history with my students. Given the most recent decision, that you state you take full responsibility for....I cannot be all of these things.
You stated that we can still teach 1-3 if we are called to do so. Or just 3. Or whatever we want, but that the Cb will only test 4-6. I believe that this statement was very glib. I think it was made in poor taste. That it was disdainful and dismissive. I teach kids who already have the cards stacked against them. Who already deal with more than you or I or most people could have dealt with reasonably at 14,15,16. They already are a step behind other kids who have more access to the education that all kids deserve. So to say that I can still teach my students that but that you won’t assess it...come on Mr. Packer. Won’t that be putting my students at a disadvantage because we can’t spend s much time focusing on 4-6? Can I, in good conscious, put my kids at even more of a learning curve? Under even more pressure? As just another illustrative example of the way in which the neighborhood they are born into dictates the education they will receive?
Mr. Packer I beg you. I plead you. I beseech you and the CB to reconsider the inclusion of TP 3 with 4-6. I can make due without 1&2. I can honestly cover that in a week or two and not put my kids at a vast disadvantage against other students who will test on the two year model. I cannot exclude time period 3 and rightfully say I have taught my kids world history. Are the key concepts exclusively Eurocentric? No, they are not. I can tell you right now though, as I am grading SAQ 2, that many of our kids already receive a Eurocentric education. That I have read upwards of 50 essays that state that there were no taxes in India or the Mughal empire prior to British imperialism and tax revenue theft in that question. They believe that trade did not happen with Europe prior to British imperialism. They honestly believe that Europe “saved” Asia. Mr. Packer, these are kids who supposedly learned this year that Asia was exemplary prior to this time period. This year. So how I am supposed to believe that if they were taught TP 4-6 that this misunderstanding would go away?
How I am supposed to believe that those outside of the “inner circle” to use your words, won’t teach this course in a Eurocentric way? They are the same people you surveyed who said that we teach too much. They are the same people who are still teaching their kids to write an additional document in their DBQs. They are the same people who are by all evidence I am reading from student are already teaching their course as expanded western civ?
Mr. Packer, I respectively disagree with the decision by your organization, by you, to destroy WHAP in this way. Perhaps you will believe that I am being dramatic by saying “destroy” but I legitimately believe this is what will happen. We will destroy many kids opportunity to learn about a history that took place more than 500 years ago. To never long long term causes and effects. To not see that the arc of history is long and that actions have consequences even into the present? I would absolutely love for the two year model to work. I just don’t think it will. I think that the Cb owes it not to us teachers (although I think you owe it to us as well), but to the students we all claim and desire to serve to have a compromise to your proposal. I think including time period 3-6 is a compromise. At least until we know that Pre AP will even work.
My last point Mr. Packer, and I will let you get back to your regularly scheduled day. I hope you are still reading at this point. I have lived through redesigns. I have seen Cb experiments fail. I have witnessed tragedy and missteps at the hands of the CB and the curriculum of courses. I do not have faith that the Cb will roll out Pre AP effectively. Not because you don’t want to. I think it was very clear tonight that you want that to work. I think it will experience bumps, turbulence, and experimentation to get it right. I hope we get it right. However, in the mean time, we have a whole group of kids who will have immediate consequences of this misstep. As I am already seeing it, the kids who will get history in 2019-2020 will have missed out on 1-3. No matter how you slice it, since you are introducing Pre AP nation wide at that same time. That’s a whole year of students being sacrifice the knowledge of 1-3 in the name of these changes. Even pushing it back a year to 20-21 would addrsss that immediate concern. However, even at that point there will be kids who don’t take pre AP. We are looking at a 4-5 year effective implementation plan. In that time, kids education will suffer. In a time where it is the worst point in our national story to not learn about pre 1450 history.
Mr. Packer, I plead for the sake of education, history, and my students, that the Cb will reconsider moving WHAP to 4-6 and instead make it 3-6. I also think that the Pre AP should also be 1-3, because as you know from your time as an educator, much is lost over a summer break. Three can act as a bridge point, as it really was in history.
I hope this finds you well sir. Rested. Reflective. Responsive. I hope it finds you in a place where you can truly listen, and hopefully not be as defensive as you seemed tonight. I wish you and yours a lovely day and a wonderful summer. I hope that you are blessed, and that you can find guidance in this issue. I hope the College Board can be open to the enlightenment that might be gained from listening to more than its own voice.
Have a wonderful day, Mr. Packer.
World History and AP World
"I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence." - Coretta Scott King
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