A transcript loaded with course titles boasting “AP” or its equivalent is your student’s ticket into a name-brand college or university. Or is it? According to College Board, last year more than 1.8 million students participated in the program, often at the urging at parents and administrators.
Unfortunately for these students, College Board’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) seems determined to water down its curriculum. To this end, College Board Vice President Trevor Packer, who oversees the AP program, recently announced its membership in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21):
“The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has been a guiding light for the AP Program as we have thought about the knowledge and skills the AP program should consciously strive to promote. … We are thrilled to formally join this partnership as we roll out a major redesign of the AP science and history programs.”
For those of you new to the debate, P21 falls heavy on skills-promotion and light on content knowledge. With passing reference to the liberal arts, the core of P21’s message is the importance of a set of skills necessary for a 21st century world: critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration, and creativity and innovation. Important skills, yes. But students develop these skills while they acquire knowledge. Cognitive science has proven that skills such as those P21 promotes cannot effectively be learned in isolation.
Even AP’s toughest critics have long lauded the program for its commitment to rich content. But AP recently revamped its curriculum considerably at the behest of those like P21—who would strip science and history of content and progression in favor of poorly organized and often-trite themes.
An organization calling P21 its “guiding light” begs our doubt.
Lynne Munson and Stephanie Porowski