By emphasizing analytical skills, a deeper understanding of key concepts, and applied knowledge rather than a simple recall of facts, the Common Core Standards and revamped AP curricula should work "in harmony" even though they were designed separately, argues Trevor Packer, senior vice president for the AP program at the College Board.
[Weigh the pros and cons of AP courses for your student.]
The first two redesigned courses—French language and culture, and German language and culture—debuted in the 2011-12 school year. Both integrate communication much more squarely with what's actually going on in the world, under six broad themes such as global challenges, science and technology, and contemporary life. Redesigned for fall 2012 are Latin and Spanish literature and culture, as well as biology.
The new AP biology course will zoom in on four "big ideas" that get at the systematic nature of all living things: that "evolution drives the diversity and unity of life"; that living things use molecular building blocks to grow and reproduce; that living systems respond to information essential to life processes; and that biological systems interact in complex ways. Students will study only the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems rather than all 11 body systems.
Many teachers, like Hollinger, look forward to digging deeper, though she suspects that many of today's "best" students who do well on recall and standardized tests might have some trouble adjusting. This new style of learning, says Philip Ballinger, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Washington in Seattle, will definitely be better college prep.
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