OKLAHOMA CITY — A Republican state representative who sparked outrage over his bill targeting Advanced Placement U.S. History courses in Oklahoma insisted Wednesday he's not trying to get rid of the popular program, but is concerned the new coursework paints an incomplete picture of the nation's history.
The bill by Rep. Dan Fisher was approved on a party-line vote earlier this week by the House Education Committee. It directs the State Board of Education to adopt a new program and test to replace the current AP U.S. History program and test offered by the College Board, a not-for-profit organization that developed the new course framework.
"There seems to be a very clear leaning in the new framework to communicate that America is just not a good place. We're exploiters. We're abusers. We put down the poor. The rich rule. All those kinds of things," said Fisher, a pastor from El Reno. "No one's questioning that America doesn't have blemishes, and I don't even have a problem with those being taught ... but I do have a problem with those being taught almost to the exclusion of what America has done right."
The bill now proceeds to the full House, but Speaker Jeffrey Hickman said Wednesday no decision has been made on whether it will be heard.
"I asked for a copy of the bill this morning just because so many people have been asking me about it," said Hickman, R-Fairview.
The bill has outraged many Oklahoma educators who say the measure could jeopardize the AP U.S. History program, which allows high school students to earn college credit for successfully completing AP tests. Last year, 256 Oklahoma school districts offered AP courses in their schools, and more than 1,200 students earned college credit on AP tests, according to the College Board.
Fisher said he would like to see schools revert back to the course guidelines that were in place before the current school year.
But Kim Pennington, who taught AP courses at Moore Public Schools for more than a decade, said educators are growing frustrated by Oklahoma politicians, many of whom have no background in education, tinkering with curriculum and standards. She said Oklahoma would not be able to develop its own AP program and testing and still expect students to receive college credit for the work.
"To me, this is an indication of a politician who doesn't really understand how the system works. Kids can't take an Oklahoma AP test or whatever they would call it and then expect to get credit for that class at Duke or UC-Berkley," said Pennington, who has a doctorate in education and now works for the College of Education at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Even if approved by the House, the measure still would need to pass the Senate before heading to Gov. Mary Fallin for consideration. Fallin typically does not comment on pending legislation, but her new Secretary of Education Natalie Shirley said Wednesday she has concerns the bill could threaten an AP program that benefits thousands of Oklahoma students.