Transition to Pre-AP and AP World History:
Responses to Frequently-Asked Questions Regarding
Pre-AP, AP, and Academic Classes
Why AP, or Pre-AP, and not "honors"?
Colleges do not know what "honors" means. It is not a consistent curriculum across the state, much less the nation. They do know, however, what AP means. It is a curriculum that they prefer to see because they had a hand in its creation, it is standardized, and it is recognized as authoritative due to the nationwide exam administration of the College Board.
We started what we are calling a “Pre-AP” program for ninth graders to make it clear from the title that we are: 1) Following the College Board curriculum; and 2) Dedicated to providing support for ninth grade students who want to get themselves ready for a challenging course in History during their high school years.
Our ninth and tenth grade “Honors” classes have been using the same textbooks and resources, and “Honors” teachers have been giving the same types of assignments, as the AP course over the past two years. Since students are performing at levels equivalent to the demands of the AP curriculum in “Honors,” there is no reason why they could not perform well in AP and Pre-AP, and get college credit, and admissions attention, from universities at the same time.
Additionally, the AP experience has many academic benefits for students who see it through—even if they do not earn an “A” in the class or a 5 on the exam. The experience of rigor and acceleration in AP has been shown to provide academic advantages to all students in the areas of critical thinking, organization, and analysis.
Won’t colleges look unfavorably upon students who do not receive an “A,” or students whose GPA drops as a result of enrolling in AP?
Colleges want to see evidence of hard work on the part of students. They want to see that students have been willing to take challenging academic work. Universities across Virginia are telling us that evidence of success in an AP course (which in many cases means a 3 on the exam—or even a C in the course) counts favorably toward admissions requirements. Colleges may not give credit in every case of AP success, but they will more likely grant admission to students who have had success in AP classes than they would to students who have not had AP experience. Additionally, a student’s GPA will not necessarily suffer if he/she is enrolled in an AP class, since LCPS gives a .7 weight to the grades earned in AP.
Can 9th or 10th graders really have success in AP and Pre-AP? College level work is a lot to expect from young students, isn’t it?
Our grade 10 students in World History have done very well in the AP course and on the AP exam. There is no denying that the adjustment can be challenging for young students, but over the last three years we’ve seen steady enrollment and success in the class. There were 290 students enrolled in the first year, 435 the second, and now in 2005 there are 569 enrolled. Our average percentage of students scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP exam in grade 10 is 76%. This is a remarkable success rate—especially when compared to success rates on the exam nationwide, which is in the high 50% or low 60% range.
What if a student may not be ready for AP, but feels he/she will not have to work hard enough in “Academic” History?
AP and Academic courses are both for college-bound students. Both require critical thinking, both require organized, logical writing, and both require college-level reading. The difference is that AP requires these skills and abilities to develop and progress at an accelerated rate, expecting students to work independently more often than in Academic classes. In Social Science, we are encouraging all teachers, AP or otherwise, to go through the 5-day College Board training to develop the instructional techniques in college-level reading and writing that college-bound students are expected to master. We aim to have students in both classes perform the same types of work, but at different rates, and different levels of independence.
What has the school system done to prepare for this transition in World History?
We have integrated the curriculum by making 9th grade the first half of the AP Curriculum, (8000 BCE-1450 CE) and grade 10 the second half (1450-present) Both grades will use the College Board “ Acorn” book as their curriculum.
We have carried out extensive teacher training. All grade 10 AP WH teachers have taken the AP 5-day course. All ninth grade teachers will get it this training in June 2005.
We have developed our own, in-house training program with the help of LCPS teachers who attended the AP National Conference in 2003. These teachers learned AP World History expectations, demands and techniques, and returned to LCPS to run workshops for their colleagues.
We have carried out Vertical Team training for all 8th, 9th, and 10th grade Social Science teachers for two full days in August 2004. The work of this group was aimed at increasing teacher awareness of the skills necessary for advanced, accelerated work in the Social Sciences. The goal was also to have teachers communicate with each other about how to build instruction so that as many students as possible can enter high school with advanced skills.
We have emphasized in all of our AP and Vertical Team training sessions that teachers need to provide extra assistance and support to young and/or struggling students facing serious academic challenges for the first time.
We have begun a 9th and 10th-grade Blackboard site for all World History teachers to share curricular and strategic/methodological information. Two teachers who attended the AP National Conference in 2004 are facilitating and administering this site for county-wide access. The site is to provide a “cyber meeting place” so that teachers can share instructional ideas and information—especially about building upon previous instruction.
Finally, we have begun a massive project to create skills articulation documents so that we can map out what Social Science skills we want students to have in grades 6-10. We will be finished with the grade 10 document by the end of June, so that grade 9 teachers will have something to work with over the summer and next year.
What is the difference between AP and Academic History courses?
AP courses equate to a first year college level course; therefore, students may earn college credit for the course.
In AP History classes, students are expected to read and write at an advanced level.
The work load is much heavier in AP history classes.
There is an emphasis on outside reading from college-level texts and primary source documents in AP History courses.
AP courses typically involve a lot of discussion and are writing intensive.
AP students are expected to be fully engaged students who contribute to each class.
Traditional Academic or Regular History Classes
Advanced Placement Classes
The classroom may be teacher centered. The teacher is primarily responsible for student achievement.
The classroom is more likely to be student centered.
Students are responsible for ensuring their success in the class.
The teacher’s role is as facilitator of learning.
Homework is assigned regularly and is collected for a grade.
Students complete homework generally in order to earn or maintain a grade in addition to reinforcing information covered in class.
Homework is assigned, but not all may be collected or graded. Students may have fewer grades per quarter.
The purpose of homework is to reinforce classroom activities and to fill gaps in knowledge. Student is expected to complete this individually.
Students may be tested on information not specifically covered during class time, but was discussed in assigned reading s.
May resemble traditional high school classes.
May resembles what is seen in university classrooms.
Students are provided a college-level textbook and supplemental readings.
Varying standards and expectations regarding evaluation and achievement. Demanding nature of coursework varies according to instructor or course.
Students held to high standards of evaluation and achievement. These standards are consistently enforced as a way to prepare students for real-world demands and the demands of a collegiate setting.
Are AP courses harder than Academic courses?
The short answer is: yes. However, “hard” and “difficult” are relative terms. Overall, the answer to this question depends on the nature of the courses your student has taken in the past and the standards upheld in those courses. It is likely that students will initially find AP History courses to be more challenging and demanding than past courses. The courses are designed to be representative of what students would expect in a university style course; thus, the course is taught in such a manner that places more responsibility on students for their learning. The expectations are likely to be higher than those of traditional high school history courses.
Does a student have to be an “honors” or “gifted ” student to take an AP History course?
Not at all. While many students of this distinction take this course, it is the philosophy of the College Board and Dominion High School that any student wishing to take on the challenge of an AP course is welcome.
Why was the Advanced Placement program started?
In the eyes of college admissions boards and scholarship committees, honors can mean different things depending on the location of the school, the philosophy of the district or department, and even the teacher. AP courses are designed by experts in the field to be as representative of first year college courses as is possible. While the curriculum is not mandated, it is strongly guided in the same direction as college courses. AP courses provide an assurance that similar standards are being upheld across the country, even worldwide.
If I receive a passing grade in the course, does that mean that I will pass the AP Exam?
Not necessarily. The AP exam is a “secret exam.” It has been developed by the College Board and is not available for preview before the exam. While the aim of the course is to help prepare for the exam, because it is not seen, it is difficult to determine if a student will pass the exam. In essence, we “fly blind” into the exam. It is possible that students may do quite well in class, but for a variety of reasons, a student may not do well on the exam.
Do I have to take the AP Exam in May?
Yes. The AP Exam is mandatory. However, the value of the course does not rest on taking this test; sometimes, just having AP on a transcript is enough for many institutions. In addition, students gain valuable skills and experiences that will help them be better prepared for the rigors college courses.
AP questions require students to do more than just recall facts. AP History questions are more analytical than typical academic questions. Below are some sample questions that can show you the difference between the two types of questions.
Sample Questions from an Academic Test on The Civil War
The formal withdrawl of a state from the Union is known as
One of the most active conductors on the Underground Railroad was
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written by
Harriet Beecher Stowe
The topic of the Lincoln-Douglas debates was
The Missouri Compromise
The Wilmot Proviso
Slavery in the territories
The Dred Scott decision did all of the following except
Rule that slaves did not have rights
Declare the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional
Guarantee that slavery would not be allowed in future states
Sample Questions from an AP Test on the Civil War
1. Which of the following most likely increased Mexican suspicion of United States territorial objectives in the 1830’s and 1840’s?
(A) Abolitionist agitation in the North
(B) Jackson’s policy toward the annexation of Texas (1836-37)
(C) The Webster-Ashburton Treaty
(D) Clay’s speeches in the campaign of 1844
(E) Rhetoric on “manifest destiny” in the American press
2. In the presidential campaign of 1860, which of the following positions was asserted by the Republican party platform with respect to slavery?
(A) Slavery should be abolished immediately by the federal government.
(B) The extension of slavery to other countries should be prohibited.
(C) The Missouri Compromise line should be extended to the Pacific Ocean, and slavery should be prohibited in territories above that line.
(D) The gradual emancipation of the slaves should begin, and the federal government should compensate slave owners for the loss of slave property.
(E) The extension of slavery to United States territories should be prohibited by the federal government, but slavery should be protected in the states where it already existed.
3. Which of the following had the greatest impact on the institution of slavery in the United States in the first quarter of the nineteenth century?
(A) Demands of Southern textile manufacturers for cotton
(B) Introduction of crop rotation and fertilizers
(C) Use of more stringent techniques of slave control
(D) Invention of the cotton gin
(E) The “three-fifths” compromise
4. All of the following statements about pre-Civil War American slavery are true EXCEPT:
(A) Although experience varied from one plantation to another, investments in slaves generally yielded rates of return equal to or better than other forms of investments of comparable risk in the pre-Cvil War American economy.
(B) Although Southern legal codes did not uniformly provide for the legalization and stability of slave marriage, slaves were generally able to marry, and the institution of marriage was common on Southern plantations.
(C) Although slaves were mainly employed in agriculture, by the 1850’s they also were employed as construction workers and industrial laborers.
(D) Because of the relative ease with which slaves could gain their freedom by manumission or by purchase, the proportion of freedmen to slaves was almost equal in many areas of the South.
(E) Despite the geographical diffusion of slavery throughout the South, at no time did the majority of White families in the South own slaves.
5.Of the following, the most threatening problem for the Union from 1861 through 1863 was
(A) Possible British recognition of the Confederacy
(B) Spanish intervention in Santo Domingo
(C) French objections to the Union blockade
(D) British insistence on the abolition of slavery
(E) British objections to the Union position on “continuous voyage”