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Politics and Government

House Education Committee Vote On AP U.S. History Draws Nationwide Attention

AP U.S. History study guides
Brian Hardzinski

Updated 12:20 p.m.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) says no decision has been made about whether or not a controversial bill that directs the State Board of Education to adopt a new program to replace the Advanced Placement U.S. history course and test will be heard by the full chamber.

The bill passed out of the House Common Education Committee Monday on an 11-4 vote. State Rep. Dan Fisher (R-Yukon) defended his measure on Wednesday, saying he's not trying to get rid of AP U.S. history courses, but is concerned the new coursework for Oklahoma high school students paints an incomplete picture of the nation's history.

The bill has outraged Oklahoma educators, who say it jeopardizes the AP U.S. history program, which allows high school students to receive college credit for coursework.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister wants to meet with Fisher about his measure to keep AP U.S. history out of high school classrooms.

“I know she is withholding her judgment until she meets with him,” Education Department spokesman Phil Bacharach said. “Obviously, it’s gotten some attention.”

During Monday’s hearing, supporters of the bill said last year’s decision to scrap Common Core academic standards means AP U.S. History has to go too because the course aligns to those standards.

It was also suggested that AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core, with state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, saying she has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on the matter. That legislation gives sole control of curriculum and assessment to the state, although it was not immediately clear whether the requirement applies to all courses or only to required courses. Although HB 1380 specifically targets U.S. history, a ruling that it violates state law related to curriculum and assessment could apply to all AP courses.

The course was revised last year in a manner critics say only focuses on the negative aspects of U.S. history. Fisher said those changes that present a negative view of America that caused him to bring his bill forward. 

“We don’t want our tax dollars going to a test that undermines our history,” Fisher told committee members.

Jenks High School junior Moin Nadeem started a petition Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to sway lawmakers to keep AP courses in Oklahoma. Nadeem is taking five this year, including U.S. history. He said the courses have improved his study skills, and will better prepare him for college.

“My heart sank,” Nadeem said of the vote. “It’s our right to learn. The state can’t say what we can and what we can’t learn.”

Nadeem had more than 6,100 signatures as of 9 a.m. Wednesday. Supporters and detractors have voiced their concerns via social media.

The story has attracted national attention. Washington Post blogger Hunter Schwarz says there are major differences between the AP tests and the Common Core.

For one, schools aren't required to offer AP courses and students aren't required to take them to graduate. Even without banning the program statewide, AP can be a local community decision. AP is also well-established. About one-third of public high school students in the class of 2013 took an AP exam, and the class of 2013 also scored a 3 or higher on more than a million tests -- a score typically accepted by colleges for credit, according to the College Board, which oversees the program. The University of Oklahoma accepts scores of 3 or higher innearly 40 subject areas


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