A new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation examines the academic excellence of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes to decide if their reputation is truly deserved. Dr. Lucien Ellington, professor in The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Teacher Preparation Academy and Co-Director of the UTC Asia Program, has played a role in the report: Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status?
As an expert reviewer, Ellington authored the section of the report on International Baccalaureate (IB) high school history courses. Additionally, reviewers considered AP and IB English, math and science classes, most similar to the core content areas in American high schools.
AP courses follow a curriculum by the College Board. The AP program is for high school students who qualify and allows them to earn university credit if they pass a standardized AP examination. IB is an international program that is now developed at elementary, middle and high school levels. IB originated in Europe thirty years ago and is now growing in the US. Currently, Georgia has thirty IB programs, Tennessee has ten, and Alabama has twelve. The IB program is being considered for the new Signal Mountain High School.
Generally, the Fordham Foundation gave both IB (high school courses, only) and AP a good review.
“Although there are problems with some of their curricula, such as math, AP and IB programs offer something very much needed I today’s secondary education system: high academic standards combined with rigorous exams aligned to those standards,” said Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Students are also expected to make sense of complex, and sometimes contradictory, materials; to write and defend their opinions about these materials intelligently; and to apply their knowledge in creative and productive ways. These are all skills that will serve them well in later years—and that should find their way into state standards, too.”
Parents should monitor the courses their students are taking, Ellington said. He has specific comments and observations about IB history courses, relatively new offerings in the Southeast.
“The strong points of both the World History and the Americas history option are their intellectual rigor, emphasis upon having students ‘do’ history and their extensive use of primary source documents that require critical thinking. The weak point of the world history course is it begins in the latter part of the 18th century. That is great if students have a foundation in ancient, medieval, and early modern world history but really damaging to historical literacy if students haven’t a sound foundation in earlier World History,” Ellington said. “The Americas option encompasses the entire hemisphere so the U.S. is one of a number of countries in the curriculum. The IB Americas is a good elective after a standard U.S. History course. However, the IB Americas course should DEFINITELY not be allowed to substitute for a standard U.S. History course because it is important that our own national story be first given specific emphasis.”
Ellington stresses the importance of laying a foundation in history with a chronological history course, and later exploring a thematic approach. “Interdisciplinary courses often, in my opinion, end up being vacuous mushy courses,” Ellington said.
Read the Fordham Foundation report in its entirety at http://edexcellence.net/foundation/publication/publication.cfm?id=378.