Updated: This story has been updated to include a timeline entry for Feb. 13, 2023.
A little over a week after the College Board released the framework for its new Advanced Placement African American Studies course, questions continue to come up over how edits to the framework came to be and what role, if any, Florida education officials played in the process.
The course, to be offered nationally with the possibility of college credit in the 2024-25 school year, has been a long time coming. But its rollout in pilot courses in the current school year hit a snag when Florida state officials publicly banned the course weeks prior to its framework publishing on Feb. 1.
Most recently, in a letter to the College Board dated Feb. 7, the Florida department of education’s office of articulation—which facilitates the progression and transfer of students through grades K-20—said it will review the “complete and official resubmission of the course for FDOE’s official consideration for the 2023-2024 school year,” while also outlining its own timeline of correspondence with the College Board about the new course beginning in 2022.
On Feb. 9, the College Board responded publicly, stating, among other details, that the Feb. 7 letter “claims that we removed 19 topics that were present in the pilot framework at the behest of FDOE. This is inaccurate.”
Here’s a timeline of how the course came to be, correspondence between Florida and College Board officials throughout the process, and what comes next for the new AP course.
In an Aug. 5, 2007 article, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted Trevor Packer, senior vice president of the College Board’s AP and Instruction programs saying at the time that the College Board had no plans to develop an AP African American Studies course, though some Pittsburgh educators were hoping for it.
Due to interest from College Board’s AP program team members and some high schools, the College Board began to survey colleges, asking whether they would support providing college credit for an AP course and exam in African American history, according to the organization.
“Colleges were generally unwilling to consider the possibility at that point in time, typically just indicating that they’d prefer to offer the introductory coursework themselves on their own campuses,” it added.
National protests against systemic racism broke out across the country tied to the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police officers, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. In response, several public and private institutions posted statements of their commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The College Board’s Black employees, listed as DIASPORA, posted their own statement on June 5 saying “we condemn the killings of Black people that have made the news and witness the daily cruelties that often go unseen.”
In a regular AP program meeting, “staff suggested that perhaps colleges would now be more supportive of such a program,” the College Board said, referring to a course around the discipline of African American Studies.
College Board staff formed two volunteer working groups to do outreach of interest at colleges and universities; and with school principals, high school teachers, and students.
April 2021-December 2021
The College Board went through a research phase for what was to become their 40th course in the AP program. During this time, the organization contracted a development committee of 24 professors and teachers, and the drafting of the framework began.
Work in these months included: “collection of syllabi from Introductory African American Studies courses at prominent departments of African American Studies nationwide, including 11 HBCUs, all 8 Ivy League Institutions, and 20 public flagships.” Out of this came a “Feb 2022 Framework Preview” document.
June 10, 2021
The Florida state board of education, at the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis, approved a rule banning the instruction of the academic concept of critical race theory and the New York Times’ 1619 Project in K-12 schools.
January 2022-June 2022
The College Board said that throughout 2022, it provided “states and departments of education across the country with the information they request[ed] for inclusion of courses within their systems.”
Florida’s department of education’s office of articulation said it exchanged emails with College Board between January and June “seeking to add AP African American Studies to the credit by exam list and the course code directory.” State officials said they got feedback from faculty at institutions of higher education in May and June on what postsecondary courses could be equivalent to passing the AP exam if the course were approved.
March 4-6, 2022
As with other course developments, the College Board held a faculty symposium in Washington, D.C., “to gather input on what topics should be in the AP course,” the organization said. College faculty were invited from African American Studies departments nationwide, and approximately 200 attended, the largest turnout ever for an AP Faculty Symposium.
Attendees received the “Feb 2022 Framework Preview” document, which contained both a draft of the first unit of the course on African Kingdoms and a high-level outline of what the rest of the course might include. (The College Board said in February 2023 that “the ‘Feb 2022 Framework Preview’ is the document that was posted on the Florida Standard and inaccurately labeled as the pilot course curriculum and was the source of inaccurate reporting thereafter about the ‘Fall 2022 Pilot Course Framework’ itself”.)
From this March convening, faculty recommended cutting 20-25 percent of the topics and up to 50 percent of the readings in order to align with colleges’ own scope of content, which is normal for new AP courses, the College Board said.
It added that there was, however, no agreement on which topics and readings should be included and which should not.
April 22, 2022
Gov. DeSantis in Florida signed House Bill 7 into law which restricts how topics of race could be taught or discussed in K-12 schools.
April 29, 2022
By this date, the “Fall 2022 Pilot Course Framework” was “completed and locked, as planned in time to be designed and printed for training of the pilot teachers at Howard University” the College Board said.
The document, “Fall 2022 Pilot Course Framework” is different from the “Feb 2022 Framework Preview,” the organization said and it still didn’t cut down on the number of topics or readings indicated as necessary back in the March symposium.
To make decisions on what would be removed, and to make changes in time to complete the full course framework by the end of 2022, the College Board planned to use data from pilot schools’ pacing of Unit 1 in August through October 2022. The organization said this move is standard operating procedure.
The AP Program staff also began requesting permission to post scholarly articles and contemporary works to serve as resources for the course in the AP Classroom digital library.
May 2022–December 2022
The course’s development committee repeatedly met and deliberated over feedback from the March symposium and from regular review cycles from experts including Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, professor of History and of African and African American Studies, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, both at Harvard University, the College Board said.
July 1, 2022
Florida’s House Bill 7 restricting how topics of race could be taught or discussed in K-12 schools took effect.
The Florida department of education said it sent an email on this same day to the College Board asking how the AP African American Studies course complied with HB 7, the state board of education rule, and state statute which requires instruction on the history of African Americans but that “classroom instruction and curriculum may not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view inconsistent with the principles” listed in the statute or state academic standards.
In its letter, the state added: “The preview materials appear to include content that may not be permissible. In order for the review to continue, we need information from College Board that demonstrates teaching the content would not require teachers to be out of compliance with Florida law.”
July 5, 2022
Florida officials said that the College Board acknowledged in an email their concerns and the organization requested to respond in writing.
July 11-14, 2022
The AP Summer Institute for African American Studies, a professional-development workshop for teachers who would pilot the course in the 2022-23 school year, took place at Howard University in Washington.
July 21, 2022
Florida officials said the state’s office of articulation and bureau of standards and instructional support staff met with the College Board to learn more about the new AP course. They reiterated to the College Board how the course must comply with the state board of education rule, state statute, and the new law on the books.
Florida officials said that the following day, July 22, a senior College Board director allegedly “responded (inaccurately) in writing how the course did not conflict with Florida law.”
July 25, 2022
Florida education officials said they began an official course review of the new AP course. The state said that the College Board asked for updates on the review on Aug. 8.
About 60 schools across the country kicked off pilot courses in AP African American Studies.
While students in these pilot courses are set to take a pilot exam at the end of the school year, they would not score for college credit as a regular AP class.
Sept. 23, 2022
Florida’s office of articulation said it sent a memo to the College Board stating “the AP African American Studies course could not be added to the course code directory without revisions” and that the College Board would have to ensure it met requirements in state statute and its board of education rule.
The College Board said in a Feb. 9 public letter that they never received written feedback from Florida officials specifying how the course violates state law, despite repeated requests. It said “on three occasions beginning in September 2022, we requested from FDOE specific information about why the pilot course was deemed out of compliance with Florida law. We received a commitment that such feedback would be provided, but it never was.”
Nov. 16, 2022
Florida officials said they met with College Board representatives to discuss concerns with the course. They said staff from the bureau of standards and instructional support indicated that sections of the course may violate Florida law and state board of education rules, sharing state statutes and rules.
They added that College Board also “acknowledged that the course would undergo revisions; however, College Board stated that items such as ‘systemic marginalization’ and ‘intersectionality’ were integral elements of the course and could not be removed.”
Florida officials said they asked what revisions would be made and that “College Board was not specific in their response since they indicated that the course writing team was not on the call” at which point state staffers said they would need to see the final revised course prior to approving it.
Dec. 7, 2022
Florida department of education staff including from the office of articulation met with the College Board as the organization “had questions about the AP African American Studies approval process again,” the state said.
Florida officials reiterated their stance on ensuring the course met requirements of the new state law and the board of education rule.
They also said that the “College Board had questions about what credit students would receive in the pilot program. FDOE staff reminded College Board that the course was not approved and that students in Florida would receive credit for the corresponding course in which they were enrolled.”
College Board has since said: “Per our standard operating procedure, during the first year of piloting, there is no official AP Exam administered and scored for college credit. This information was provided to potential pilot schools to inform their decision whether to participate.”
Dec. 22, 2022
Halfway through pilot courses, the final course framework for AP African American Studies was set.
“In order to produce an operational AP Exam for college credit for the second year of piloting, any changes to the framework must be complete by the end of the calendar year, so that test development, psychometric, and teacher training can be developed and delivered for the upcoming academic year,” the College Board said. “This is standard operating procedure, consistent across AP course and exam development schedules.”
Jan. 12, 2023
The Florida department of education sent a letter to the College Board “indicating that the course could not be approved as written” effectively banning the course.
The letter added that: “The content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law, and significantly lacks educational value. In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to open the discussion.”
Jan. 20, 2023
Manny Diaz Jr., Florida’s commissioner of education, posted a tweet detailing topics he and other state officials took issue with being included. These included “Intersectionality and Activism” and “Black Queer Studies.”
The College Board has since responded to state officials saying: “The first and only written feedback we have received was through a tweet from Commissioner Diaz posted on January 20, 2023. Four of the six course elements criticized in that tweet were in fact not present in the actual pilot framework we provided you in July 2022, including readings by Angela Davis and bell hooks, and references to Leslie Kay Jones and Roderick Ferguson. The tweet also objected to ‘Black Queer Studies,’ though no such topic appears in the July 2022 pilot course framework.”
Jan. 26, 2023
In a letter to its members, College Board said “No states or districts have seen the official framework that will be released on February 1, much less provided feedback on it.”
Feb. 1, 2023
The College Board published its final course framework on the first day of Black History Month.
Ensuing coverage and online discourse focused on how scholars and topics previously called out by Florida officials were now absent. The College Board posted a statement reiterating that edits predated commentary out of Florida, and that no secondary sources—most of the scholars and topics in question—ever make it to final course frameworks as the organization focuses more on primary sources.
When asked why they included any secondary sources in earlier drafts of the course framework, if no AP course requires them, the organization said:
“There are a number of reasons we experimented with mandating specific secondary sources in the pilot.” One reason included that the AP Classroom digital library was not yet set up with resources for the course so pilot teachers were given “more guidance and specificity than we typically do” including given specific secondary sources to read throughout the course.
“But we always planned on making such sources available on AP Classroom,” it added, and that “No Black authors or scholars were removed from the course; in fact, the opposite.”
As of Feb. 1, the organization said it received permission to make available 22 scholarly articles and recent sources in AP Classroom including work by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Maya Angelou and more. Permission acquisition is set to continue through August 2024, the College Board said.
Feb. 7, 2023
In a letter to the College Board detailing their correspondences over AP African American Studies since January 2022, state officials said:
“By no coincidence, we were grateful to see that the College Board’s revised February 1, 2023, framework removed 19 topics, many of which FDOE cited as conflicting with Florida law, including discriminatory and historically fictional topics.”
State officials also asked to see resources provided in the AP Classroom digital library.
Feb. 9, 2023
The College Board posted a response to Florida officials’ Feb.7 letter reiterating that “selection of topics for this course has been guided by feedback from educators, disciplinary experts, and principles that have long shaped AP courses” and that changes were not made at the behest of Florida officials.
“The choice of which topics to remove drew on comparisons of the AP pilot framework to college syllabi and prioritized what is essential for college credit. We also drew on our principles for AP, including a focus on primary documents and places where the historical record is clear,” it said.
The organization added that Florida officials were not provided a “preview” of the official framework, but rather that “we briefed FDOE on the content of the framework after it had been shared publicly on the morning of February 1, 2023. No one in the department had seen the official framework before it was finalized and publicly shared.”
Feb. 11, 2023
In a public statement, the College Board expressed its regret over how the course rollout went, including not sharing comments on its communications with the Florida department of education earlier or comments on Florida officials’ critiques of the course.
“We have made the mistake of treating FDOE with the courtesy we always accord to an education agency, but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda,” it said.
It also clarified that, at least in part, political limitations in at least 18 states over how teachers can discuss topics of race and racism in K-12 schools was top of mind in developing the course framework as it stands.
“We recognize that in some states teachers and students will be able to draw more widely on Black Studies scholarship than in others,” the statement read, “By filling the course with concrete examples of the foundational concepts in this discipline, we have given teachers the flexibility to teach the essential content without putting their livelihoods at risk.”
Feb. 13, 2023
When asked for comment on the College Board’s Feb. 11 statement, DeSantis said at a news conference that he has already talked with state House Speaker Paul Renner on re-evaluating the state’s long term relationship with the College Board’s AP and SAT programs.
“Nobody elected [College Board] to anything, they’re just kind of there and they provide a service. And so you can either utilize those services or not,” DeSantis said. “And so they’ve provided these AP courses for a long time. But you know they’re probably some other vendors who may be able to do that job as good or maybe even a lot better.”
“Of course our universities can or can’t accept College Board courses for credit, and maybe they’ll do others, and then also just whether our universities do the SATs versus the ACT, I think they do both, but we’re going to evaluate kind of how all that process goes.”
Florida had one of the highest percentages of 2021 graduates (close to 50 percent) taking an AP Exam that year, according to a state report. Florida was also a state that provided financial support for all students taking an AP exam in 2021.
Howard University will be one of three locations for the 2023 summer professional development workshop for teachers who will teach AP African American Studies in the 2023-24 school year.
A second round of pilot courses is planned for the 2023-24 school year. About 650 high schools have applied to pilot the course for the second round, the organization said in February 2023.
The College Board plans to make the course available to any interested school worldwide for the 2024-25 school year.