Advanced Placement Physics, US History Getting a Redesign

The College Board has announced a redesign for two of its most popular Advanced Placement courses, AP U.S. History and AP Physics B. In announcing the changes, Trevor Packer, the College Board’s senior vice president in charge of the Advanced Placement Program, said that while the new curriculum will maintain its rigor, it will give instructors the flexibility in how they tackle the material.

The company canvassed universities all over the country to determine a set of skills they would require students to have learned in order to receive college credit for AP courses. As a result, the courses will cover fewer topics in general, but will allow instructors to go into each one with greater depth. It is anticipated that this change will have an impact on more than 18,000 AP teachers and nearly half a million students.

The U.S. History course was redesigned to meet three objectives: to make sure that the topics covered closely aligned with the material taught in colleges and universities in an introductory level history course; to allow more freedom for teachers and students to delve deeper into a particular period or topic instead of feeling forced to teach the material on a superficial level to cover everything that might appear on the end-of-year exam; and to educate students on the proper approach to the study of history to better prepare tackling the subject in college.

The increased flexibility of the redesigned course will provide teachers with time to help students use the knowledge they gain to practice the work of a historian. Rather than simply moving rapidly from topic to topic, AP U.S. History students will regularly engage in sustained, close reading of historical source material and the development of written arguments solidly grounded in such evidence.

Physics B will be split up into two courses, AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2, based on recommendations by the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation. The company spent several years consulting with the NRC, the NSF and some of the best AP Physics teachers in the country, and came to the conclusion that the range of topics covered in the course was too broad to allow for coverage that was anything but cursory. The new course design will focus on concepts fundamental to the study of physics — including Newtonian mechanics, which was not previously part of the course or the exam.

To achieve these important goals, and the much-needed time for teachers to accomplish them, the NRC recommended that the course material be spread over two years. After confirming this recommendation through college curriculum studies, higher education validations, state standards reviews, and AP instructional timing trials conducted by AP teachers, the AP Program is replacing AP Physics B with two separate full-year courses. The new courses align strongly with college and university expectations and will benefit students and teachers.