I hope this email finds you well. First I would like to thank you for your willingness to hear concerns about the proposed changes to the AP World History curriculum. I thank you for the most recent message that you sent out through Twitter and the AP Teaching Community. Your communication did alleviate some of the concerns and anxiety over the course changes.
I was honored and privileged to serve on the AP World Test Development Committee from 2012 - 2017. I had the opportunity through that role to meet many teachers from very different communities than mine, which helped me gain a much broader understanding of the needs of many teachers across the country. Even to me, who was most recently on the TDC until June 2017, this announcement came as a total surprise. It is such a large shift in the course that should have been on the table for discussion for more than the one year since I have been off the committee.
When AP World History was initiated in the academic year 2001-2002, I was amongst the few fortunate educators to be selected to be a reader for the APWH reading in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was enthusiastic for the course and what it gave students - a longue duree perspective of world history with an emphasis on interconnection that was not available to them in a regionalized world history course reflected in most classrooms and textbooks. I was excited by this course, which was on the cutting edge of world history research and instruction and leading the way for the nation in what world history education could look like. There was much to be proud of as College Board helped pave the way for secondary school educators as leaders in the field, with colleges working to catch up. AP World turned the model upside down, I was completely sold and became a devoted foot soldier, if you will.
Although I wasn't physically at the Open Forum, I watched the entire presentation through a live feed. I believe that an opportunity was missed to regain the trust and confidence of the teachers in the room as some of your responses sounded dismissive of their concerns. The ensuing reaction has been increased disillusionment and anger. However, I believe this can be resolved through a clear message to AP World teachers from the College Board that provides more transparency about the process, and a timeline of when supporting documents will be released, and when resources will be provided. The announcement of the change came with none of the above which led to increase the anxiety of teachers overall.
As you said at the Open Forum, the educators in the room represented the 5% -- 5% of the most devoted teachers to this course. Yes, some of their concerns were and are misplaced; there has been a conflation of the changes to AP World with the roll out of the Pre-AP program. However I can also empathize with their response since I also have sacrificed much of my personal time and devoted my career over 17 years into making this course the best it could be. Every change requires a much more extensive re-haul on the teacher's end that is hard to anticipate. Even if none of the Curriculum Framework changes for Period 4-6, the reality is that lesson plans for almost every teacher will need to be revamped because pacing will be much different. Hopefully, this will help you understand why there has been so much emotional reaction over this change.
I still hold on to the vision of teaching of human connections across the broad scope of history that the initial developers of AP World held as the most critical aspect of the course. The cutting of Periods 1-3 truly guts the course and the uniqueness that AP World held for so many teachers and for history education across the nation. Instead of what the College Board had been, a leading innovator for education to set the exemplar, it seems that College Board is now more reactive. As you have probably heard from others, starting in 1450 is perceived as an Eurocentric model of history. Even though I know this was not the intent, it is the ingrained perception because it's the model that Western historians have used as the the starting point to the "rise of the West." You asserted that teachers can still teach the earlier parts of the world history if they wanted to, but again, in reality, if it's not being assessed, there is little motivation for most teachers to include it.
I fully endorse your proposal of trying to find a way to synthesize the two objectives of providing contained concepts to be assessed, and inclusion of critical topics from Period 3. I had been considering the idea of creating a "Foundations" unit similar to what existed in the early iteration of the course which could include the most critical portions of Period 3 and very selective key topics from Period 1 & 2 and would be an effective bridge into the core of the course. This could include the founding and spread of Islam and development of Muslim Caliphates, and the growing height of Chinese influence and hegemony and Southernization from India, as well as all the trade networks to provide the needed context for the understanding of modern world history. Is there a possible way to message something different by choosing a starting date that does not overlap quite so obviously? I'm still thinking about it.
I know that the TDC is well prepared for taking on the task of meeting your two objectives, but with a short timeline ahead, I have communicated with Kelly regarding my availability to help with any of the process, if needed.
Thank you again for your consideration.
History educator, Weston High School
World History Association, Executive Council member