Organization behind AP US History curriculum supports student protesters in Jeffco

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- The group behind Advanced Placement curricula and SAT tests issued a statement Friday afternoon in support of students protesting potential changes to Jefferson County Public Schools’ AP U.S. History course.

“These students recognize that the social order can — and sometimes must — be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice,” College Board said. “Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history,  from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course.”

Remarkably, the statement seemed to warn Jeffco administrators that rewriting the curriculum to meet board member Julie Williams’ suggested standards, which have sparked days of protests, would place the entire program in jeopardy.

“If a school or district censors essential concepts from an Advanced Placement course, that course can no longer bear the ‘AP’ designation,” College Board wrote.

Students who pass AP tests with qualifying scores in high school generally receive some form of college credit. If the AP designation was removed, the advanced history classes taught in Jefferson County Schools would presumably no longer qualify as college-level work.

College Board noted that in order to offer a course labeled “AP,” schools agree to a set of standards shared by more than 3,300 colleges and universities around the world. Local school districts agree not to make major changes on their own, the College Board said.

Jeffco School Board chairman Ken Witt issued a response late Friday:

“College Board would do well to research rather than rely on media reports,” he wrote. “There has been no proposal to revise or ‘censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course,’ but only a proposal to review AP U.S. History curriculum to ensure thorough and balanced curriculum.”

Witt went on to say, "I am encouraged that College Board 'has announced a public-review process for the AP U.S. History course framework' in light of the observation by SR VP Trevor Packer at College Board, who says 'It's very difficult, given the dominance of liberal perspectives in college and high school history departments, for faculty committees to avoid unintentionally muting, eliding, or obfuscating the perspectives of the right,' in an interview with Rick Hess on September 4, 2014."

In an interview Thursday, Jeffco board member Williams explained her new plans for curriculum that “present positive aspects of the United States,” “promote patriotism” and “should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

“I’m not suggesting altering, omitting or censoring anything. I’m just asking for a committee to look at it,” she said. “I would ask, what is the fear at looking at this?”

Earlier in the week Williams made some seemingly incorrect statements regarding the existing AP US History curriculum:

“Let me give you some examples of who is omitted,” she said. “Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Franklin with not even a mention of Martin Luther King Jr. It ignores lessons on the Boston Tea Party, Lexington, Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.”

Some of those names and events are not mentioned in the new AP US History framework, but Jeffco AP US History teachers tell FOX31 they are part of the curriculum. In addition, all of those people and events are included in all 10 textbooks approved by Jeffco for AP US History, FOX31 Denver found.

When asked about the apparent confusion, Williams noted that she had not reviewed all of the AP framework or the Jeffco curriculum.

“Even if they are in the textbooks it doesn’t mean the teachers teach it,” Williams said. “And this isn’t about teachers. This really goes back to the union bosses being upset about not having control over the process of our budget and the teachers’ pay.”