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AP World History Conference + Mr. Franke = Great Opportunities for SHS Students!

by Don Franke, History Teacher – Sandwich High School

I had the opportunity to attend the World History Advanced Placement conference for teachers sponsored by the College Board at the Schoodic Institute, Acadia National Park, Winter Harbor, Maine from August 2 to August 7.  The conference was attended by six teachers, and was facilitated by Dr. Lenore Schneider, New Canaan High School, New Canaan, Connecticut, a teacher with over 20 years teaching advanced placement world history and European history, and with over a decade of experience working with the Advanced Placement Program to prepare teachers to teach the world history course.

The conference was a complete success. Not only did I come away with all of the strategies that I need to make the course successful, but I also came away with strategies I could use to improve my instruction in the Comparative Government and Politics Advanced Placement course which I also teach. A myriad of challenges with teaching AP in the current culture were introduced and discussed, from homework policies to teaching test taking skills to textbook choices and to dealing with open enrollment policies. I came away with a very clear idea about what needs to happen to not only make my course go, but also expand the learning skills of students not only inside advanced placement courses but outside these courses in the rest of the curriculum-both at the high school and district wide.

The World History AP course has undergone a number of changes. There is a far greater emphasis on analyzing and using documents to answer questions, having students identify and analyze critical moments in history, as well as compare and contrast the history of two entirely different cultures and societies. There is also a wider range of tools being used to prepare students for the test, from innovative video to project based learning – both of these in particular will be part of my curriculum. Students still have to know their facts, but the focus is on using facts to develop answers to questions rather than attempting to know everything there is to know about world history- something that is impossible to teach students in one year.

I also came away with some very specific information about the direction advanced placement is going concerning the rigor of its classes. Colleges and universities are paying more and more attention to AP scores, because they are based on courses that have a set curriculum used across the nation. I was informed that the Advanced Placement Program will be emphasizing rigor in its grading processes, and that we as advanced placement teachers must be very thorough and how we prepare students for any advanced placement exam.

Given Dr. Schneider’s experience teaching teachers about the world history advanced placement program, our group of teachers at the conference came away understanding what an AP teacher had to do to be successful, and what the components of a successful advance program involved.  I taught European history advanced placement for 17 years. Much has changed since I last taught the European course to the mighty members of the class of 2007. I believe I have the tools and tactics required to provide the students in front of me every opportunity to be successful as advanced placement students in general, and advanced placement students in history and social science in particular.

Anyone with any questions about my experience can reach me at dfranke@sandwich.k12.ma.us.  Special thanks to the Sandwich School Department for providing me with the opportunity to attend-Mr. Donald Franke, History and Social Science Department, Sandwich High School.