The College Board on Saturday accused the Florida Department of Education of “slander,” after ongoing critiques of its Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course, which was rolled out in a pilot program across 60 unnamed U.S. high schools this year. It is unclear if any of those schools are in Florida.
“Our commitment to AP African American Studies is unwavering,” wrote the College Board in a statement before expressing regret for the way it had handled the ongoing tension with the state’s Education Department.
“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments, that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value.’ Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field,” read the statement.
The College Board went on to say that “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.”
Last month, DeSantis’ administration blocked the introduction of AP African American Studies. In a Jan. 12 letter to the College Board, the state Education Department’s Office of Articulation said that “in its current form” the “course lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law.”
Just weeks later, the College Board posted the course curriculum for AP African American Studies online, which was now missing some of the subjects DeSantis had expressed particular concerns about, such as writings associated with critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism, the New York Times reported.
On Feb. 7, the state’s Office of Articulation wrote to the College Board in response to its revised curriculum, saying that “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.”
“In Florida’s effort to engineer a political win, they have claimed credit for the specific changes we made to the official framework, none of which they ever asked us to remove, and most of which remain in the official framework,” the College Board responded in its statement Saturday.
On the characterization of some topics as “historically fictional,” the statement continued: “The College Board condemns this uninformed caricature of African American Studies and the harm it does to scholars and students.”
Last March, DeSantis signed the “Stop WOKE Act,” which prohibits the teaching of critical race theory in Florida schools. The College Board said Saturday that allegations that the board was in “frequent dialogue” with Florida officials regarding the “content” of the course was a “false and politically motivated charge.”
“We had no negotiations about the content of this course with Florida or any other state, nor did we receive any requests, suggestions or feedback,” read the College Board’s statement.
Henry-Louis Gates, Jr., one of the country’s foremost experts on African American history — and who helped develop the AP African American Studies program — told Time magazine that the course specifically “is not CRT.”
“It is a mainstream, rigorously vetted, academic approach to a vibrant field of study, one half a century old in the American academy, and much older, of course, in historically Black colleges and universities,” he said.
The AP program, which gives high school students an opportunity to take college-level courses before graduation, covers 38 subjects, including English literature and composition, U.S. government and politics, statistics and art history.
The AP African American Studies course is the College Board’s first new offering since 2014, according to Time, and will cover more than 400 years of African American history. It had been in the works for over a decade before its initial pilot, and the curriculum will span several topics, including literature, political science and geography.