kitchen table math, the sequel: From the horse's mouth

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

From the horse's mouth

AP courses and exams are being revised to emphasize inquiry and depth at the expense of memorization.
Trevor Packer, Senior Vice President, AP and Instruction – Senior Vice President, AP and Instruction - April 9, 2014
Oh, goody.

To be fair, AP history courses have always covered too much material. At least, that's what Ed always said. (For passersby, Ed is a historian of France & modern Europe.) Back in the day, Ed would occasionally be asked to work on AP Euro. He always said 'no' because he thought the courses crammed too much content into too little time.

He completely changed his mind once he started dealing with public schools as a parent.

He used to tell friends: 'I thought AP courses weren't great-- now I want Chris taking as many AP's as he possibly can.'

So, as much as it pains me to concede the point in our contemporary context, in theory it would be a good idea to thin out the content a bit.

Unfortunately, when thinning out content means "emphasizing inquiry and depth at the expense of memorization," you're not talking about a sensible edit.

You're talking about 12 months of DBQ-mongering at the expense of Roger Williams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Dorothea Dix, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Clay, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jacob Riis, Jane Addams, Theodore Roosevelt, Lost Generation authors (Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Lewis), and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Yes, I do realize that current AP courses engage in quite a bit of DBQ-mongering.)

Real historians don't write DBQs.

Also, you can't do proper inquiry & depth without knowledge.

Knowledge stored in memory, not on Google.


I've told you all (right? many times?) that Ed is one of the inventors of the DBQ.

He doesn't like me to say that because he's not positive he and his colleagues really did invent the DBQ. Somebody else might have invented it first.*

But it's safe to say Ed and his group were the re-inventors of DBQs, and here's the thing: they invented the DBQ as a testof memorized knowledge.

Memorized, as in committed to memory and recalled later, on a test.

He and his group were writing new, rigorous, multiple-choice history tests for California. They designed the DBQ as a final and minor element of the exam, which would give advanced students a chance to show that they were beginning to be able to apply the historical knowledge they had memorized.

And note: only advanced students were expected to be able to write a DBQ successfully. All students could pass the test on the basis of knowledge stored in long-term memory. The DBQs were a bonus, so to speak.

A few years ago, in response to some folderol going on around here, in my district, I actually interviewed Ed about his work on the DBQ. Have got to dig out those notes and finally write them up.

AND SEE: Paul Horton on the new CC standards and DBQs

*I've come across journal articles on "controlled composition," which I have yet to read, and I suspect Ed's right. Other people probably thought of DBQs before Ed and his group did, although I've never seen any indication that other people came up with the specific concept Ed's team did.


John said...

What's a DBQ?

Catherine Johnson said...

"Document Based Question"

Paul Horton's post on the new CC history standards is very worth reading -- he talks, a little, about the problem with turning AP courses into DBQ-fests.

Catherine Johnson said...

What is a DBQ?

momof4 said...

At my older sons' excellent HS, ALL AP classes had an honors prereq (not the regular college prep courses). Honors US preceded AP US and honors world preceded AP Euro, so all of the kids had basic knowledge before they started APs, thus making it easier to cover the AP material. There was a lot of writing in the APs and I think the DBQs were from memory, at least part of the time. They certainly were all taken from old AP exams, as were all of the test questions. All took the AP test and had at least a 3, with many 4-5s. In AP Euro (at that school, considered to be tougher than AP US, which was often taken by kids taking only one AP), a college-standard research/term paper was required. The school philosophy was that APs were real, competitive/elite-college courses for those who had already succeeded in the top HS courses). The push for "APs for all" trashes this approach

Robin/Student of History said...


I don't think Ed is going to like the new AP History Frameworks. I worked on the write-up of the AP World that got pulled a few years ago. The idea is not to create your own conceptual understandings (I was a history major and it remains an adult passion) from facts, but rather to interpret experience and primary documents with supplied 'lenses'.aka interpretive schemata.

It is similar to the Understandings of Consequence and Enduring Understandings that guide what counts as knowledge under the Common Core. The idea of the Framework is to 'frame' perception. The point is no longer to have an accurate understanding of the past, but rather meaningful beliefs about the past likely to influence just behavior. To create a compulsion to act in fact because of perceived unfairness or injustice.

Same reason for constructivist math and reading practices. Anything that lets someone develop their own understanding of what is likely to happen and why is to be canned.

We may use the phrase Common Core, but insiders call these Standards for Teaching and Learning. They find the transmission of knowledge to be repellent because it may not transform perception as desired.

belfry-there are 381 footnotes and I only footnoted what would be difficult to locate otherwise. I was simply telling you there was a place that laid out the answers to your questions along with very detailed explanations on the why and the ties to outcomes based education. It also explains what Kilpatrick and Hans Freudenthal say they intended when they created PME.

Robin/Student of History said...

The C3 Framework I am referring to here is the Common Core Social Studies Framework. It was one of the first places I encountered that odd word 'lenses' (having skipped sociology in college), but it is truly omnipresent in the documents guiding the actual classroom implementation in science, history, other social studies courses, economics, as well as what constitutes Close Reading under ELA. explains how this trying on perspectives works and how it ties to having a Growth Mindset.

I know Barry does not want the word "understand" in the math CCSSI to mean the phronetic sense of the term like the areas I listed, but that is what I am seeing in cutting-edge districts.

SteveH said...

Coleman and the College Board are struggling to bridge the gap between CC with AP. It appears that AP classes will be the losers. Rather than look to colleges to match up and define the AP classes (they ARE supposed to be for advanced placement), they are being affected by fuzzy K-12 educational ideas. I expect that these changes will cause fewer colleges to accept AP classes for much of anything, even if you get a 5.

The fundamental flaw in K-12 education is the gap between the low expectation full inclusion of K-6 and the high expectations of (most) honors and AP classes. The College Board has already floated a trial balloon of AP Algebra. Unfortunately, inquiry and depth are often code words for lower expectations.