Feb 1, 2023 - News

Arkansas to review advanced African American studies

Illustration of an apple core with faces silhouetted on each side.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The state's Division of Elementary and Secondary Education is seeking information about the content of an Advanced Placement course on African American studies, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

The curriculum includes "events, experiences, and individuals crucial to a study of African American history and culture," Education Week reports.

Driving the news: The Arkansas inquiries come in reaction to Executive Order 23-05 to "prohibit indoctrination and critical race theory in [public] schools," signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Jan. 10.

Context: The AP courses are only offered at Little Rock Central High and The Academies at Jonesboro High, per the Democrat-Gazette.

  • Sanders' order doesn't specifically take aim at the AP courses, but empowers the secretary of education to review and change any materials that "purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT…"

Neither school district responded to inquiries from Axios about the benefits of the AP studies.

Zoom out: On Jan. 12, the Florida Department of Education told the College Board, the nonprofit overseeing the AP program, that its content is "contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value."

  • Of note: Arkansas' new secretary of education, Jacob Oliva, came here from Florida's education department.

Reality check: There's no indication the college-level framework of critical race theory — which holds that racism is baked into the formation of the nation and ingrained in our legal, financial and education systems — is taught in any Arkansas public school.

What we're watching: The College Board plans to release revisions to the AP course on African American studies today, the first day of Black History Month.

  • The updated course would be available for the 2023-24 school year to an expanded group of pilot schools before being offered at all schools beginning with the 2024-25 school year.

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