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Updated CED (May 2019) – Emerging thoughts

June 03, 2019

So here we are with an updated CED. My experience of formally working with the College Board was painful, and was made more difficult at every turn as the edubabble nonsense. The original CED for the updated 2014 curriculum was riddled with such, and although some of that garbage has been relegated to lesser importance, some still hangs on (“Think-Pair-Share”, anyone??).

What follows are some initial (emerging) thoughts, and these are certainly open to review and revision. It’s not really possible to read this document quickly, and then record every single thought that may ever arise. As the document matures in the context of exam question going forward, then other thoughts will develop. Just as it took time to get a handle on the original document via exam questions, now the process will have to start over once more.

First a few comments on some macro elements, then on to the nitty gritty of the ‘new’, 91 Topics/LO’s, versus the ‘old’, 117 LO’s.

Science Practices

Seven become six, and their relevance to everyday teaching in the new CED remains precisely the same as it was previously i.e., NIL. SP’s are utterly irrelevant to the everyday teaching of AP chemistry, and (presumably) only have meaning to the theorists. If you are teaching AP chemistry (or even chemistry), all of the SP’s follow without thought. It’s like the educational theorists just hijacked teaching to make it more complicated than it really is! Here’s one simple example of the total pointlessness of them. Are you really suggesting that there is a need for me (or the kids) to think about, “SP5 Solve problems using mathematical relationships”, when I’m applying P V = n R T, or when I’m doing titration calculations, or ANY OTHER CALCULATION! Talk about adding BS for the sake of adding BS. It would be laughable were it not so sad.

Big Ideas

It’s appropriate that this section starts with the work of Wiggins and McTighe who made a living out of telling teachers that before you start teaching, it’s probably a good idea to know what you trying to achieve. No shit, Sherlock! I’ve always deeply objected to this patronizing, “stating of the obvious” that teachers have been suckered into falling for (closely followed by my disdain for Carol Dweck making a living out of saying that, “it’s probably a good idea to keep trying when you run into adversity”, and subsequently making a mint out of calling that particular, totally obvious trait, “grit”), so I’m glad that it heads the equally meaningless, new, “Big Ideas”. I could describe how six BI’s have become four BI’s, but there’s really no point, just move past these pages like you did with the Science Practices, and maybe eventually we will get to the teaching of some chemistry content. What is far more interesting to note is that the “Big Ideas” that held such a prominent place in 2013, have basically been relegated to zero importance in the new CED. Of course, we could all have told the CB that in the first place, as the wheel of edubabble turns! Only the chemistry is constant.


It looks like the CB stole my use of the word “UNIT” from my notes of 2013! Maybe not, but guess what? It took them a few years to work out that thing might better to organize things like this. One interesting reversal is the policy of publishing the exam weighting for different parts of the course. Those of you that remember the old Acorn book may recall that this data was always published prior to 2014, but disappeared when the new curriculum came out. Well, now it’s back. I’m not sure how relevant it is to every day teaching if at all, but it’s there if you want it.

Unit 1: Atomic Structure and Properties 7–9%

Unit 2: Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties 7–9%

Unit 3: Intermolecular Forces and Properties 18–22%

Unit 4: Chemical Reactions 7–9%

Unit 5: Kinetics 7–9%

Unit 6: Thermodynamics 7–9%

Unit 7: Equilibrium 7–9%

Unit 8: Acids and Bases 11–15%

Unit 9: Applications of Thermodynamics 7–9%

Instructional strategies

No CB, leave me alone! It’s not the CB’s job to tell me anything about how I teach the course, only their job to tell me what can be examined. NOTHING ELSE.

Hierarchy of the course

The Big Ideas, Enduring Understandings, and LO’s elucidated by Essential Knowledge statements remain largely in place, but as before you can completely ignore the first two. As prior, the essence of what kids need to know is still incorporated into the LO’s, and also as before, it’s a good idea to read the EK statements since they can (sometimes) help with the interpretation. I say ‘sometimes’, since IMO the ONLY way to ultimately unpack an ambiguous LO completely, is via the interpretation of the exam. 117 LO’s have (formally) become 91 LO’s, and here is my (current) analysis of the each one of them.

What’s gone?

Well, in one way this is tricky, very tricky, because there is so much interpretation possible here. For example, if one takes the old LO 1.15 (for which Russ Mauer wrote a great, matching question), are we to think that is no longer examinable, OR is it tied up in in the application of 1.5 and 1.6? This is bothersome, and comes as a result of 1.12 and 1.13 being written in the first place. That LO was a disaster on the first version of the ‘new’ CED, and it’s legacy hangs over here.

What’s clearer is that the new CED contains no mention of semi-conductors, no mention of capillary action, and no mention of surface tension or work being related to P∆V and pistons!  – GOOD, they are all physics topics, so I am delighted to see the back of them.

It’ actually quite hard to match the old LO’s to the new ones in many cases. This is definitively a reflection on the ridiculous specificity and wordy language of the old. For example, old LO 1.8 really just meant,  “understand the pattern of successive ionization energies”, but served to only confuse. It’s likely now tied up in Topic 1.7 or perhaps more accurately, Topic 1.8.

1 Comment

  1. Geralyn Kountz

    Thank you!
    I have not taught AP Chem since 2016, and due to a name change I could not access my AP Central account until today. Feeling overwhelmed, I went to the AP Chemistry Community, where I saw your response to a question about the changes. I recognized your name, and knew you were someone who would cut to the chase. By the way, I share your opinion about the physics. Thank you!


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