The 2015 AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description

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Today, July 30, the College Board is providing educators with a new edition of the AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description. This edition is based on feedback gathered over the last year – including through the public review period we initiated – and includes improvements to the language and structure of the course.

Every statement in the 2015 edition has been examined with great care based on the historical record and the principled feedback the College Board received. The result is a clearer and more balanced approach to the teaching of American history that remains faithful to the requirements that colleges and universities set for academic credit. The new edition has been embraced by educators, including AP U.S. History teachers who reviewed it at the recent AP Annual Conference.

What’s New in the 2015 Edition of the AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description?

Every section in the new framework has been reviewed and improved. The following areas received the greatest public comment, and reflect the most significant changes:

  • American national identity and unity
  • American ideals of liberty, citizenship, and self-governance, and how those ideals play out in U.S. history
  • American founding political leaders, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin
  • Founding Documents – including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers – as reflected in a new recommended focus section
  • Productive role of free enterprise, entrepreneurship, and innovation in shaping U.S. history
  • U.S. role in the victories of WWI and WWII, particularly the contributions and sacrifices of American servicemen and women in those wars
  • U.S. leadership in ending the Cold War

Information on AP U.S. History Assessment and Instructional Resources

The College Board is proud to release the new AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description. This new edition includes significant changes throughout the framework that result in a clearer, more precise, and easier-to-use course for teachers and students. We are excited about the impact these changes will have.

Unfortunately, a factually inaccurate national news article that ran on July 29 — rushed to publication without any review of the new framework — included misinformation about the changes to the course and exam. This irresponsible article, which has already required a major correction, indicated that the materials teachers will use to teach the course will not change. This is not true.

The new framework requires changes in assessment, instructional resources, and classroom teaching.

Specifically, the 2016 AP U.S. History Exam and all subsequent AP U.S. History Exams will be fully aligned to the new framework. Furthermore, all teacher professional development materials and sessions are being aligned to the new framework; we are confident that classroom instruction will shift accordingly.

The College Board does not develop textbooks for AP courses or require particular textbooks. Instead, states, districts, and schools make local decisions about which college textbooks to use for AP courses. The framework will guide how existing textbooks are used and inform the development of new textbooks.

We are excited about the enthusiasm with which AP teachers have embraced the focus, clarity, and balance of the new edition.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Why did the College Board redesign AP U.S. History?

AP U.S. History teachers were the major motivating factor in the course redesign process that the College Board began in 2006. Many AP teachers expressed frustration that the previous course did not provide sufficient time to immerse students in the major ideas, events, people, and documents of U.S. history, and that they were instead required to race through topics. The redesign was aimed at addressing this concern, resulting in a course framework that teachers and students began using in fall 2014.

Q: Why was the AP U.S. History CED updated in 2015?

The 2014 edition of the AP U.S. History Course and Exam Description (CED) sparked significant public conversations among students, educators, historians, policymakers, and others about the teaching of U.S. history. The College Board gathered feedback over the past year – including a public review period – and on July 30, 2015, released a new edition of the CED that includes improvements to the language and structure of the course.

Q: Who provided feedback?

We heard from and engaged with a wide range of stakeholders over the past year as part of our public review process. Teachers and historians, parents and students, and other concerned citizens and public officials from across the country all provided feedback.

Q: What are the main changes in the 2015 edition?

In response to feedback from teachers about the 2014 edition, the structure of the CED has been improved in the 2015 edition to better serve teachers as they move through the course. Key updates include:

  • The concept outline has been reformatted to be easier for teachers to use, learning objectives are now printed alongside the corresponding content in the outline, and more blank space makes it easier for teachers to write in examples of the historical individuals, events, topics, or sources they use in their classrooms.
  • The 2015 edition streamlines and consolidates the learning objectives from 50 to just 19, making them broader in focus and ultimately more useful for teachers in structuring their courses.
  • Content at all levels (Key Concept, Roman numeral, and A-B-C levels) has been refined and clarified. The degree of change varies across different components of the outline.
    • Statements are clearer and more historically precise, and less open to misinterpretation or perceptions of imbalance.
    • Some key individuals (such as James Madison, Jane Addams, and Martin Luther King Jr.) and documents (such as the Gettysburg Address and the Federalist Papers) are now explicitly mentioned.

For additional details, visit the AP U.S. History FAQ page.