The following piece appeared on Education Week on July 30.
In March 2014, the College Board grabbed headlines with its plan to overhaul the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) by cutting obscure vocabulary and making the essay optional. In contrast, the recent changes that the College Board has made to Advanced Placement (AP) tests have garnered much less attention. Although AP courses are intended to promote rigorous, college-level instruction for high school students, AP tests have been criticized for privileging breadth over depth.
In response to both this criticism and to the 2002 National Research Council (NRC) report on STEM education (Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools), AP Biology, Chemistry, and Physics curricula and exams were redesigned. These courses now emphasize scientific inquiry and reasoning, as well as depth of understanding for big ideas in science, over fixed, broad content coverage of facts. Subsequent NRC reports (A Framework for K-12 Science Education, 2012 and Successful K-12 STEM Education, 2011) and the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next-Generation Science Standards have emphasized the importance of this shift.
These are sweeping changes to a long-standing educational program. Hundreds of thousands of AP science students--and their teachers--are now expected to grapple with the inquiry process, real world applications of scientific principles, and synthesis of content knowledge at a higher level than ever before. These redesigned AP courses aim to promote deeper learning for students, but what learning for teachers is required to make these changes, and what are the most effective ways to support teachers in this shift?
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