Feb 9, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Letters detail Florida education officials’ feud with College Board

Books piled up in the classroom for students taking AP African-American Studies at Overland High School on Nov. 1 in Aurora, Colorado. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Letters published this week document the ongoing feud between the College Board and Florida's Department of Education over the Advanced Placement African American Studies course and its curriculum.

Driving the news: Florida's DOE says that they were in contact with the College Board over the aspects of the course the state opposed, per the New York Times. The College Board rejected claims that the state's concerns shaped the course or that it bent to political pressure.

The big picture: The course drew backlash from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and conservative politicians who said it teaches critical race theory, a college-level framework that is rarely taught in grade school but often conflated with teachings on systemic racism.

  • The College Board's official curriculum for the AP course, which was released last week, ultimately excluded several topics that were in the pilot course, including topics on Black Lives Matter and reparations.

A Feb. 7 letter from DeSantis' Department of Education outlines points of contact between the department and the College Board, beginning in January 2022 and through January 2023.

  • On Sept. 23, 2022, the department says. it sent a memo to the College Board to let it know that the AP African American Studies course would not be added to the course directory "without revisions."
  • On Nov. 16, 2022, Florida Department of Education met with representatives from College Board to "again discuss concerns" with the course.
  • The state argued that the course violated rules requiring that “instruction on required topics must be factual and objective and may not suppress or distort significant historical events."
  • The College Board acknowledged that the course would undergo revisions, but they were not specific in the changes they would make, per the letter.
  • The College Board said that concepts such as "systemic marginalization" and "intersectionality" would not be removed.

The College Board published its own letter on Thursday, which was sent to the Florida Department of Education this week.

  • "When the College Board undertakes the intensive, multi-year process to introduce a new AP course, we provide states and departments of education across the country with the information they request for inclusion of courses within their systems," the College Board wrote.
  • The College Board also resisted the idea that any topics were removed "at the behest of FDOE," saying that the pilot process is "designed to reduce the number of topics to a scope and sequence appropriate for teaching and learning in a single academic year."
  • "We need to clarify that no topics were removed because they lacked educational value," the College Board said.
  • The letter also said that no Black scholars or authors were removed from the course. "In fact, contemporary scholars and authors are never mandated in any AP framework," per the letter.

Zoom out: The letters between the College Board and Florida's Department of Education are likely to add to the ongoing feud over the course, particularly in Florida, where DeSantis, who is expected to launch a 2024 presidential bid, has opposed the course, per the Times.

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