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More on Common Core

Some months ago this blog commented on David Coleman’s announcement that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) had been revised to align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Coleman, now president of the College Board, is known as the architect of CCSS.

In a speech to the Annual Strategic Data Collection Project in February 2014 Coleman contradicted the claim, promulgated by Sec. of Education Arnie Duncan and other CCSS proponents, that the standards were “state led.” Coleman bragged:

‘When I was involved in convincing governors around this country to adopt these standards,’ Coleman said, ‘it was not Obama likes them – do you think that would have gone well with the Republican crowd?’

Now, the other shoe has dropped or, more accurately, kicked the Advanced Placement (AP) United States History (APUSH) course and exam into the Common Core corner. The College Board administers AP courses and tests.

Of course, the College Board denies that the refashioned APUSH course is in anyway related to Common Core for which only English Language Arts (ELA) and Math standards have been released. Well, that’s true as far as it goes. Only it doesn’t go far enough.  As Merrill Hope reports on Breitbart Texas:

…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.” 

If anyone remembers the debacle of the National Standards of History, the initial foray into national standards during the Clinton administration, the reason for the subterfuge is clear.

Although the authors of the National Standards of History—based at UCLA’s National Center of History in Schools—insisted that their work represented a “national consensus” on American history, the standards turned out mainly to be a “consensus” among multicultural and leftist interpretations of American history. By January 1995, the criticism had grown so intense that Congressional leaders began to backpedal on the whole idea of national standards in any field (the English and math standards had also proven deeply controversial). The nails went into the national standards coffin when the U.S. Senate condemned the National Standards for History on January 18, 1995. Consequently, the Clinton administration’s Goals 2000 program shifted its focus from national to state standards. 

When national standards were, Zombie-like revived; it didn’t require witchcraft. Just Obama progressives determined to control American education and never mind the Constitution. But the lessons of 1995 were not forgotten. Better to pretend the standards emanated from the states and confine them (at least initially) to ELA and Math than risk fallout over leftist history standards. Apparently, the stealth approach was deemed to be just as effective and less risky. 

The Heartland Institute calls the new course “a curricular coup.”

By providing a detailed course of study that defines, discusses, and interprets “the required knowledge of each period,” the College Board has in effect supplanted local and state curricula by unilaterally assuming the authority to prioritize historic topics.

The Institute warns that unless parents, public officials and educators (those opposed to using history as a vehicle for ideology)  speak out, Coleman et al “will continue to develop similar frameworks for its 33 other AP courses and thus become an unelected de facto legislature for the nation’s public and private high schools.”

The American history redesign presents a consistently negative view of the nation’s past. Students learn that the nation“was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.” That’s the motif, unless the authors reflexively spout Democrat Party talking points.

Although the New Deal did not completely overcome the Depression, it left a legacy of reforms and agencies that endeavored to make society and individuals more secure, and it helped foster a long-term political realignment in which many ethnic groups, African Americans, and working-class communities identified with the Democratic Party.

No mention is made of the significant body of research (See Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes) indicating that Roosevelt’s policies not only prolonged the Depression but that he exercised un-Constitutional powers.

Rather than explain America’s role in defeating fascism and sacrifices in lives and treasure the focus of the course is on “[w]artime experiences, such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb [which] raised questions about American values.”

What is presented as American history omits the founding principles, and the men who wrote and defended the Constitution, often with their very lives. Among the missing are the Pilgrims, John Winthrop, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Abraham Lincoln. George Washington merits a sentence. An extensive review can be found at and at 

Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars has issued a preliminary report on the revised APUSH course. He also provides a short history of the College Board and its founding mission of raising and maintaining academic standards.  

As Wood explains, in the past few years that founding mission has been supplanted by “increasing access.”  

Wood lists six revisions that have made the SAT less difficult. For example, in 1995 the SAT was “recentered” which had the effect of moving average scores up from their continually declining levels to less embarrassing numbers. Although that is not how it is justified.

Now, driven by the College Board and Arne Duncan, there is movement to open AP courses to all students regardless of ability. 

Thus, although the number of students enrolled in AP courses more than doubled in the past ten years, pass rates fell significantly, varying according to subject. In this situation everyone loses. 

 The AP courses themselves are inevitably diluted by the presence of many students—roughly half the class—who are not suited for an advanced course.  And, the enrollment of under qualified students in these classes is a near-perfect example of the “mismatch” problem, i.e. it robs the mis-assigned students of their opportunity to do well (and learn more) in courses matched to their own level. 

Wood finds the course itself “remarkable:”

 For a history course that is premised on fostering “historical thinking skills”—let’s remember:  chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative—the lack of attention to well-grounded scholarship that presents different interpretations of U.S. history is remarkable. 

The usual pro forma assurances are provided. The APUSH states on page 5 that teachers have “flexibility” to “teach topics of their choice in depth.”   


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.

Or as the earlier post on this blog concluded: 

…[T]here are only so many hours in the school day and as they used to say on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in, “you can bet your sweet bippy” that what will be tested is what will be taught.



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