schools, but also in primary schools and colleges. The AP and IB courses, while including some of the best education in the subject currently available at the secondary level, tend in general to be out of date, too broad, and too inflexible in their curricula. Moreover, they often ignore the results of recent research on science learning, pedagogy, and assessment, and do not conform to the pedagogical standards of the NSES and INSES. The panel judges IB to be superior to AP in many respects, but making AP more like IB will not be enough; rather, systemic changes are required in the preparation of teachers and the teaching of biology at all levels. For example, the panel concurs with the view National Research Council, 1996, 2000b; U.S. Department of Education, 2000) that many of the current shortcomings of both primary and secondary school courses stem directly from the mode of instruction experienced by high school teachers as college students. College-level introductory courses are also a substantial part of the problem because their content has been driving the AP Biology curriculum in particular.
Systemic change in the teaching of mathematics was recently initiated with support from the National Science Foundation. One result has been striking changes in AP Calculus instruction, demonstrating that the College Board can be responsive to reform efforts. A similar systemic initiative is under way in chemistry. The panel concludes that efforts to improve the AP and IB programs should be part of a broad initiative to reform biology teaching, as outlined in the NSES and the recent report of the Glenn Commission (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000). We are encouraged that the recent recommendations of the Commission on the Future of the Advanced Placement Program (AP Commission) (2001), discussed further below, appear likely to move the AP program in this direction.
Chapter 2 of this report defines what constitutes advanced high school biology, briefly describes the AP and IB programs, and lists some characteristics the panel would recommend for an ideal advanced biology course at the secondary level. Chapters 3 through 5 present the panel’s responses to each of the questions under its charge (see Appendix A), under headings that correspond closely to the questions as posed. (Since many of the questions in the charge overlap, this format results in some inevitable redundancy.) The discussion focuses on the AP and IB programs because they are the most widespread and influential and are the programs for which most information is available, and because the panel had neither the time nor the resources necessary to address alternative programs in any depth. We evaluate the status of these two programs, compare them, and make recommendations for change. The first question in the panel’s charge was, “To what degree do the AP and IB programs incorporate current knowledge about cognition and learning in mathematics and science in their curricula, instructions, and assessments?” We deal separately with the three aspects of this question in Chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 6 presents a summary and discussion of the panel’s three primary and eleven secondary recommendations.