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Ken Mercer, The Texas Voice In The Uphill Battle To Push APUSH Back

August 10, 2014
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Empty ClassroomAdvanced Placement has been the gold standard of accelerated academic achievement, bringing first year college level work to the best and brightest on a high school level. Its end-of-course exam has translated into transferrable college credits for many. However, chunks of history and its heroes have gone AWOL in the College Board’s AP US History redo, raising eyebrows and questions. It is a radically gutted APUSH, the acronym for Advanced Placement United States History, and it has been hijacked by the same masterminds who brought America the Common Core. APUSH will roll out this Fall and it will affect every APUSH student across the nation, including those sitting in classrooms deep in the heart of Texas.

State Board of Education (SBOE) member Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio) has been leading the Lone Star charge to push APUSH back. He was the Texas voice on the August 4 national APUSH conference call hosted by Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) in partnership with American Principles Project “in Action” and moderated by Concerned Women for America (CWA) Georgia State Director and former APUSH teacher Tanya Ditty, who said about the new framework that when she first read them, “I didn’t even recognize it as American history standards.”

There were approximately 650 callers listening to Mercer who was on the call with American Principles Project Senior Fellow Jane Robbins, JD; and retired APUSH teacher Larry Krieger. Robbins and Krieger have written extensively for Breitbart News on the new APUSH College Board framework that replaces a 5-page topical outline with a 98 page instructional document directing teachers how to cover the subject matter.

The pair co-wrote about Texas, “The College Board understands that its new Framework is not aligned with standards legally adopted by states across America. For example, a report commissioned by the College Board found that the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills contains 181 specific and required elements from the Civil War to the present that are not in the College Board Framework.”

Robbins and Krieger reported the panel was a group of Texas teachers, the College Board asked, to determine how well the mandated Texas state curriculum, the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) correlated with the redesigned APUSH Framework. It didn’t. What those teachers found was “a shocking lack of correlation,” Robbins and Krieger wrote.

This redesign should be of major concern to Texans because if “The Texas situation is repeated in many other states, they will see their mandated history curriculum displaced by the radical, new APUSH Framework,” also according to Robbins and Krieger.

It is even a deeper problem, though. Breitbart Texas reported that AP curriculum standards in the Texas Education Code “are prescribed by the College Board Publication Course in United States History, published by the College Board.” That means AP answers to the College Board, not the Texas Education Agency (TEA) based on contracts signed in 1998.

Mercer, aware that AP “is out of our jurisdiction,” told Breitbart Texas, “My job is to represent and be the voice of my 1.6 million constituents, not be the mouthpiece of the education establishment.” He emphasized, “Texas parents are outraged.”

He told Breitbart Texas that he hopes this outrage will snowball into legislative action against the revised APUSH. Until then, in September, Mercer will ask the state education board to delay the new AP US History curriculum and test for at least a year while state officials determine whether they violate the 2013 law (HB 462) that prohibits the teaching of Common Core materials in Texas schools. Texas is one of originally five, now four states that never adopted the Common Core State Standards.

That is a lot for him to go up against because critics like the Texas Observer, the self-described purveyor of social justice from progressive perspectives mocked Mercer over APUSH and alleged that Krieger had “cynical” interests. Others marginalize these concerns.

The Texas Tribune wrote, “While opponents of Common Core targeting AP US History courses are motivated by a larger concern that the College Board could be undermining state-developed curriculum through the AP program, the Common Core initiative only developed standards for reading and math, not US history.”

A College Board representative attended the last SBOE meeting and insisted that APUSH did not include any Common Core material. He claimed that APUSH would prepare students for college classroom discussions that look at all sides of a debate. However, it is hard to debate all sides when vast amounts of content vanished from the American history timeline.

The College Board, which administers the APUSH curriculum and test, acknowledged this in a 142-page online AP document effective Fall 2014. It stated, “The AP US History course expands on the history of the Americas from 1491 to 1607 and from 1980 to the present.”

Technically, Common Core has only rolled out in standards headed under English Language Arts and Math. Oddly enough, Social Studies is tactically embedded in Common Core ELA and it’s readily available to view in documents like “Preparing Students for College, Career & Citizenship: A California Guide to Align Civic Education and Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.”

This is a 2011 publication of the Los Angeles County Office of Education in the Common Core state of California. History/Social Studies is woven into the Common Core State Standards through ELA. Last month, the state added to it a supporting ELA/ELD (English Language Development) framework.

Also in July, the US Department of Education was working to implement the “College, Career and Civic Life C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards” into the Common Core state of Hawaii, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.

The C3 Framework was hatched in 2010 out of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), who along with the National Governors Association (NGA) are the two private non-profits that own the copyright to the Common Core State Standards.

Like APUSH, C3 is a “framework.” According to Education Week, C3 publisher, the National Council for Social Studies “in its own statements, referred to the C3 document interchangeably as standards and as a framework.”

Similarly, Wiley offers comprehensive Common Core reading materials, including United States History, Grades 3-5 as part of the Alexandria Plan, “Common Core’s curriculum tool for teaching of United States and World History.”

The operative word is “framework” and its purpose is to identify and use high quality informational texts and narrative nonfiction to meet the expectations of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts (ELA) while also sharing essential historical knowledge drawn from the very best state history and civics standards around the country.”

No Common Core Social Studies or American History, just a lot of frameworks.

Mercer wants the College Board to pause APUSH implementation. In the meantime, he is working with colleague Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo) to require that all AP teachers must follow the TEKS.

However, it is a paradoxical battle because the APUSH document says that teachers have “flexibility to go beyond the framework” as is illustrated in the document by “gray boxes,” Mercer told Breitbart Texas. He added that APUSH states explicitly, in writing, that students will not be held accountable or tested on anything in the gray boxes,” he added. The gray boxes are the framework’s flexibility.

Page 10 of the College Board’s 142 page APUSH document emphatically states: “Beginning with the May 2015 AP U.S. History Exams, no AP U.S. History Exam questions will require students to know historical content that falls outside this concept outline.” This means teach to the test.

Still, Mercer is hopeful that the College Board will delay the implementation. He told Breitbart Texas that he strives for fairness and wants to keep an open dialogue with the College Board. “I do have reason to believe that the College Board is listening. They attended and testified at our State Board meeting in July, and there was a conference call with David Coleman and myself. ”

Concerned Texans can go to the CWA Texas state page for APUSH news, action items and local legislative updates. State director Ann Hettinger is the official CWA Texas APUSH contact person.

She told Breitbart Texas, “More and more children in our public school classrooms are subject to the progressive ideologies that are becoming mandatory for all students, eventually, but in this case for our brightest high schoolers in Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH).

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