has been to survey the department faculty from colleges and universities receiving the most AP score reports in a discipline. The faculty who serve on the subject-specific development committees synthesize the information from these surveys and construct a course description they believe best represents the consensus view of the college-level introductory course (CFAPP, 2001, p. 22). The development committee for a course develops both the topic outline and, with help from ETS experts, the course examinations. The committee prepares the course description for each subject and compiles a list of the textbooks used most frequently in the corresponding college course. Development committees for AP science courses may also recommend laboratory activities that are representative of work done by college students in the corresponding introductory course. This entire process is repeated every 5 to 6 years.

One result of this process is that until curricular changes have become common in introductory college courses, those changes are not reflected in the AP course descriptions and examinations. Thus, some disciplinary leaders have contended that, with the growth in AP participation and the program’s influence on high school curricula, the AP course development process has the potential to slow the implementation of desirable curricular reforms.

In contrast, the development of AP calculus during the 1990s provides a model for implementing rather than impeding curricular change. The AP Calculus Development Committee used a broader, more forward-looking strategy for revising the description and the examination specifications for this course by collaborating with experts in mathematics content, curriculum, and pedagogy. The committee became an active participant in the calculus reform movement at the college level and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics–driven standards movement at the precollege level.2 According to CFAPP, “We believe that such strategies must be replicated whenever AP course descriptions are reviewed and revised. Leaders in the disciplines, pedagogy, and research must all play a role in order to create the highest quality curriculum possible” (CFAPP, 2001, p. 12). This committee concurs with that recommendation.

Content of AP Courses

Each AP course description, or acorn book to use the popular term, includes a topic outline. The major topics on the outline for biology, chemistry, and physics are accompanied by percentages. However, the percent-

2  

More information about the AP calculus development process is available at AP Calculus for a New Century by Dan Kennedy, http://www.collegeboard.org/ap/calculus/new_century/index.html (November 26, 2001).



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