Monday, November 3, 2014

AP United States History News

The following item was submitted by Barbara Wright, Humanities Department Head for Milton High School and first appeared in Superintendent Gormley's October 31st Eblast:

In May of this academic year, approximately 40 Milton High School students will take the Advanced Placement United States History (better known by MHS students as APUSH) exam along with hundreds of thousands of students around the world.  What’s different this year is that the exam will be newly designed to assess students not so much on content, but rather critical thinking skills.   This change was introduced by the exam’s creator, College Board, to allow teachers to delve into topics in history and teach students to be historical thinkers – which is defined by the College Board as the ability to study history using “chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative.”

Milton High School history teacher Nancy Warn has taught the Milton APUSH course for five years, and she is excited about the changes.   Warn stated that she is now more likely to “use a lot more stimulus-based multiple choice and short answer questions, and focus less on memorization of facts and more on historical thinking skills.”  Before, the test focused on content, and students were required to remember content rather than critically think about the content.

This past summer, Ms. Warn attended a one-week summer institute in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and she believes the program helped her in preparing our students to successfully apply the new learning expectations.  Mrs. Warn joined other veteran AP teachers from the area to examine and discuss the new template, and they worked together to “dig into the new exam, format and requirements.”  As a result, Mrs. Warn said, “I was able to seek out helpful resources to assist students as they try to achieve success in the new AP US History course.”

As for her students, Mrs. Warn believes they are “doing well and transitioning their thinking about history, facts and analysis.”  It is a skill that takes time to master, and the 9th and 10th grade curriculum at the high school has been transitioning to a more “critical thinking” model of teaching over the past several years, focusing on analysis of primary sources and application of historical information. Next year, the AP European History course will undergo similar changes.