AP Board changes curriculum, Biology, US History to be revamped

By Rachel Aretakis

The AP College Board is making major changes to its curriculum that will take effect in the 2012-13 school year.

The curriculum changes, called “the New AP,” will greatly affect the biology track in particular, by cutting a lot of the information from the course.

United States history will also be revamped.

The board will also offer a curriculum framework for each course, which is something it has never done.

History department professor David Hamilton said he participated in a review of the AP U.S. history curriculum, and said in an e-mail to the Kernel he thought it was outstanding.

“The changes were intended to create a more coherent curriculum built around larger themes,” Hamilton said.

He said he thinks the changes will improve high school classes, but does not think it will make a huge difference for high school students.

The changes to the U.S. history course are not as dramatic as the changes to the AP biology course.

According to the college board website, “the revised AP biology course and exam align with the knowledge and skills that many rigorous college-level introductory biology courses now seek to nurture.”

The new curriculum will focus on lab work.

Vincent Cassone, professor and chair of UK’s biology department, said that he is surprised the biology department takes the AP credit as it is now, and said normally they do not take any at all.

“(The old curriculum) is truly based on textbook memorization and the emphasis is on things that are no longer important in biology,” Cassone said. “In that sense, the new curriculum is much better.”

He said the way AP biology is organized is not very forward thinking because there is so much information for students to learn.

The new AP biology curriculum has four main ideas, Cassone said.

“It’s a much more conceptual biological curriculum,” Cassone said.

He said the new curriculum has a greater emphasis on mathematics, which is something he likes because it is more “in tune with biological thought.”

Cassone said he thinks high school students taking the current AP curriculum are not prepared for college biology.

“It’s a big problem because kids and their parents are led to believe that they are getting extra biological thought credit, and I don’t think that is what they’re getting,” Cassone said.

He encourages students who took the class in high school to retake it when the get to college.

Though Cassone believes the new curriculum will help high school students when they get to college, he said he is concerned that high school teachers will not be prepared to actually teach the class.

“It emphasizes some really big concepts that I don’t think some school districts are prepared to actually emphasize,” Cassone said.

He said he is also worried that schools across the nation will not be even in the way the course is taught.

UK is actually ahead of AP standards because the biology department launched a new biology curriculum last fall, in which a new freshman lab was added to the curriculum, Cassone said.

“The AP curriculum is more in line with what we at the University of Kentucky are doing in new biology curriculum,” Cassone said.

Megan Williams, biology freshman, is currently taking the new A&S 100 biology course and she also took AP biology in high school.

She said in high school she scored well on the practice exams, but the actual test was much harder.

Though she did not receive credit at UK for taking the class, she said she does not regret taking it.

“But I don’t think it prepared me as much as I would have liked it to,” Williams said about the AP biology class.

Based on what she knows about the new AP biology class, Williams said she thinks the new course would be a better class to take because it seems to include more active learning.