College Board Modifies Curriculum and Essay Rubrics for Numerous AP Courses

by Adam Levine ’20

College Board has issued curriculum modifications to several AP courses for this school year. Some of the biggest changes involve courses offered at Sherwood including World History, English Language, and English Literature.

One of the largest changes was to the curriculum of AP World History, now AP World History: Modern. This “modern” comes from a new starting date to the courses timeline: 1200 CE. The College Board ultimately decided to remove content from 10,000 BCE to 1200 CE, believing inclusion of this timeline put strain on teachers and hurt students’ scores on the exam.

AP World History teacher Michelle Games, who has been teaching the course for 17 years, disagreed with the College Board, explaining that the information cut out still remains relevant and will benefit students on the exam.

“I decided to take an approach of not making a drastic change, so I still taught [an abbreviated version] of the pre-1200 information,” Games said. “The reason for that was because the students still had to know a lot of that information, and it just seemed to me it was better to teach it in sequence than trying to jump back and forth.”

She also emphasized that she wants students to have an understanding of world history in a broader sense, despite the College Board’s concerns with students scores. “I don’t think the only purpose of my class is the exam. I want them to have some understanding of world history,” said Games. “You don’t choose what to teach based on how kids score on a test. You choose what to teach based on what’s historically important.”

In the future, the College Board plans to administer an “AP World History: Ancient” course to cover the content from 10,000 BCE to 1200 CE, but it says it first needs “to confirm the support of colleges and the interest of high schools.”

The other large change is for AP English Language and Composition and AP English Literature and Composition. Both courses’ free response sections consist of three essays, which used to all be graded on a 9-point scale. This school year, the College Board rolled out a new 6-point rubric for these essays to be graded on.

The new rubric is split into three categories, thesis, evidence, and sophistication, which according to AP English Language and Composition teacher Alexandra Green, lends itself to be more prescriptive as it checks for certain elements that should be present, while the old 9-point rubric was more holistic to the writing and essay as a whole.

English Language and Composition received changes to the exam as well, most notably to the multiple choice section. In addition to fewer questions, going from 52-55 to just 45, the College Board is introducing a new type of question: the composition question. About 20-22 questions on the exam will take the form of a composition question, asking students to “‘read like a writer’ and consider revision to stimulus texts.”

“The questions are more related to how the sentences are structured within a paragraph or within an essay,” Green said. “There are sentence-level questions, paragraph-level questions, and syntactical questions that really speak more to the composing side of the course, which is not what we had before.”