Social Studies

College Board: No State Has Sway Over Final Version of AP African American Studies

By Eesha Pendharkar — January 26, 2023 3 min read
A large crowd gathers on the fourth floor rotunda of the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., for the "Stop the Black Attack" rally, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. Attorney Ben Crump threatened to file a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and his administration amid the ban of a proposed Advanced Placement course on African America Studies in Florida high schools on behalf of three Leon County, Fla., school students.
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The College Board effectively told its members Thursday that it will not consider input from states or districts when releasing the final version of the pilot Black history class that Florida banned.

Since Florida made national news by banning a preliminary version of a new Advanced Placement African American Studies course that the College Board had been piloting in 60 high schools across the country, the organization that designs AP courses has been silent about whether it will consider the state’s offer to negotiate on the contents of the course. The only statement it had made so far was that the final version of the course will be released next month.

But in a letter emailed on Jan. 26, the College Board told its members, which includes school districts and universities across the country, that no lawmakers will have the chance to weigh in on the final version of the Black history course.

“No states or districts have seen the official framework that will be released on February 1, much less provided feedback on it,” the letter said. “This course has been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices.”

On Jan. 12, the Florida Department of Education sent a letter to the College Board, explaining that the AP African American Studies course would be banned from the state for lacking “educational value and historical accuracy.”

Florida passed a law called the “Stop W.O.K.E” act last year, rejecting critical race theory, the New York Times’ 1619 Project, and some lessons on race and racism. The education department told the College Board that some aspects of the pilot course allegedly violated state law.

Florida is one of 18 states that have passed laws that ban teachers from teaching that anyone is inherently racist, that they are responsible for past actions of their race, or that they should feel guilt or anguish because of those actions. Although the vast majority of teachers were not teaching these concepts to begin with, the laws are vaguely worded and have created a chilling effect on lessons about race and racism.

However, no other state has banned the AP course so far. The ban drew criticism from experts and Democratic lawmakers. The White House condemned the state’s decision, and Vice President Kamala Harris called Florida lawmakers “extremists.”

In response to the White House’s comments, Florida’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., tweeted a list of concerns the department has with the preliminary course. The department’s Jan. 12 letter also said that Florida would reconsider the ban if the College Board addressed those concerns.

The College Board did not publicly address the ban, or the list of concerns. The organization plans to release the official framework for the AP African American Studies course on Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month.

The official framework has been under development for a year, and the College Board has sought the expertise of more than 300 professors of African American Studies from more than 200 colleges nationwide, including dozens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the letter to its members said.

The final version focuses on topics that the professors agreed upon, including “events, experiences, and individuals crucial to a study of African American history and culture,” the letter said. The board finalized the course in December 2022.

“When we share the course framework next week, the public will see the extraordinary stories, artwork, documents, and debates at the heart of AP African American Studies,” the letter said. “ It is a remarkable course that explores the richness and depth of African American history and culture. We invite everyone to read the framework for themselves when it is released; it is a historic document that deserves your attention.”

Letter to the College Boards' members

Dear members,
On Wednesday, February 1, the first day of Black History Month, the Advanced Placement Program will release the official framework for the AP African American Studies course. The official framework has been under development for nearly a year. It will replace the preliminary pilot course framework under discussion to date and defines what students will encounter on the AP Exam for college credit and placement.
We have worked and planned for this day for many months and will mark the milestone with a celebration at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on February 2.
The course is the subject of great interest, and we want to explain the process we have followed to get to this point.
To develop this official course framework, the AP Program consulted with more than 300 professors of African American Studies from more than 200 colleges nationwide, including dozens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The course focuses on the topics where professors shared a strong consensus on the essential shared events, experiences, and individuals crucial to a study of African American history and culture. This process was completed in December 2022.
To be clear, no states or districts have seen the official framework that will be released on February 1, much less provided feedback on it. This course has been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices.
When we share the course framework next week, the public will see the extraordinary stories, artwork, documents, and debates at the heart of AP African American Studies. It is a remarkable course that explores the richness and depth of African American history and culture. We invite everyone to read the framework for themselves when it is released; it is a historic document that deserves your attention.
Finally, we want to thank the many members of the AP community who are helping to bring this vital course to life. We pledge to all of you that we will honor their work and maintain our unflinching commitment to this course.
We hope you will join us in celebrating this historic achievement next week.
Sincerely,
Advanced Placement Program

Ileana Najarro, Staff Writer contributed to this article.

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