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New AP Course in Development

The College Board is now directly advising the teachers and students behind the proposed AP U.S. Women’s History course

Less than two years into their campaign to establish an Advanced Placement (AP) course focused solely on women’s history, Sacred Heart Preparatory (SHP) teachers Serene Williams and Kristen Kelly have received word that the College Board is interested in developing the course. 
No standalone women’s history course currently exists among the College Board’s slate of AP offerings, and that needs to be rectified, say Kelly and Williams.
In the summer of 2022, Kelly and Williams received a prestigious teaching grant from Harvard to conduct research at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America—their original intent was to update current AP government courses to be more inclusive of women. Once there, that goal soon stretched to include a proposal for a new AP U.S. Women’s History course. The pair then went about the herculean task of designing the curriculum and gathering signatures of support via an online petition.

“Teaching the history of women in the United States and their contribution to both society and the political spheres allows students to see their value and their place in history,” says Williams. “The youth of America deserve to hear these stories traditionally left untold in current AP courses.”
Key to Kelly and Williams’ success is a student-run advocacy group headed up by about 20 SHP students called U.S. Women’s AP History League (USWAPHL), pronounced “waffle” for short. Not only did they give momentum to the online petition, but the group began meeting monthly a little over a year ago to develop a rigorous marketing and publicity plan to advocate for the course creation. 
Together the students have created a website, logo, developed a social media presence, and put a public relations plan in action, successfully pitching top media outlets, including co-authoring an article in Ms. Magazine, coverage on CNN, The 19th, and many more. They have also presented at leading academic conferences about the new course, and organized other students from schools as far-reaching as Georgia to join in their efforts. Two of the Ms. Magazine article co-authors, Samantha Pyle (SHP ’25), and Kate Ragatz (SHP ’25), talked excitedly about the news from the College Board.
“It’s surprising and really exciting to hear back from them this soon,” said Ragatz. “People come up to us after we give presentations and ask, ‘OK, is this course coming out next year?’ They don’t realize it’s a five-year plan [to get a new AP course approved].”
Among the steps the College Board outlined for the group include gathering at least 100 letters of support from universities, demonstrating national support from a diverse group of at least 250 high schools, collecting sample syllabi from universities currently offering the equivalent course, and fundraising for a pilot of the new AP course.
“This feels like a huge jump,” said Pyle. “We’re that much closer to an AP U.S. Women’s History course being a reality. This is so important in empowering girls—to know that they had a vital role in shaping history and society as it is today, and that they have the power to change it.”
To read more about this project, check out last year’s SHS Magazine Spring 2023 feature story, Marching Forward.

Sacred Heart Schools Atherton

Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton

150 Valparaiso Ave
Atherton, CA 94027
650 322 1866
Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12