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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why is Elmhurst College Offering an AP Human Geography Teaching Certificate?

Today I learned that Elmhurst College, a small liberal arts school outside of Chicago, will be offering a five course, fully online graduate certificate aimed at instructors of Advanced Placement Human Geography (APHG). High school advanced placement courses prepare students for exams that can be used for college credit and/or to skip ahead in college.

I've been watching the proliferation of online and residence GIS certificates and masters degrees over the past few years. I could easily tie the schools' decisions to offer them to the Dept of Labor's (DOL) statement about the need for more geospatial practitioners. I'm aware of public, private, and for-profit schools offering such GIS programs and virtually all are aligned with either entry level career opportunities or advancing one's career within geospatial technology.

That's why I'm a bit perplexed at Elmhurst's new program. While teachers are in short supply in various parts of the United States and the world, I can't say I'm aware of excess demand for AP Human Geography teachers. Instead, the demand for English, STEM and special education teachers at the K-12 level seems especially high, at least here in the Massachusetts.

Elmhurst's collateral on the program does not have the punch of DOL statistics quoted for virtually every GIS certificate or degree program. Instead, it states:
More than 96,000 students took the AP Human Geography exam in 2012 and it is estimated that there are 3,200 AP Human Geography teachers nationwide. As demand for APHG exams increase, so will the demand for qualified teachers.
For comparison, Wikipedia reports "In May 2011, the AP U.S. History Test was taken by 402,947 students worldwide." I agree that as more students want to take the geography exam, demand for teachers will increase too.

Is there data suggesting more students want to take the exam this year or in the coming years? Are there changes in educational policy at the local, state or federal level that will cause demand for the APHG exam to rise?

Is it possible that The Geography is Fundamental (TGIF) Act will pass? Is it possible there will be a concrete reaction to the recently released (but not yet publicized) National Science Foundation funded geography road map reports? Or, perhaps there are other initiatives of which I'm not aware that will push geography back into the high school and college curriculum? And, maybe there is funding coming from foundations or other sources? I hope one or more of these possibilities turns out to be true.