College Board: States have not influenced our new African American studies course


The College Board on Thursday defended its African American Studies Advanced Placement course by rebuking claims that Florida or other states have influenced its new framework that has yet to be unveiled.

Their letter comes as Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed success in potentially changing the course, and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, has sent his own letter urging the nonprofit that oversees AP exams not to follow Florida’s lead, calling it “political grandstanding.”

“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,” the College Board said in a letter to its membership that was obtained by POLITICO.

The DeSantis administration made the decision earlier this month to bar high school students from taking the new course over concerns that the lessons run “contrary” to state law that restricts how race is taught in the classroom and that it “significantly lacks educational value.”

DeSantis, who said the original coursework “pushed an agenda,” claimed victory this week after the College Board announced changes could be expected by the framework’s unveiling on Feb. 1. The state’s feedback included scrapping the lessons flagged by Florida officials, such as pieces on “Black Queer Studies,” advocacy for reparations, activism and intersectionality, which is a piece of critical race theory.

Critical race theory is the study of how racism has been weaved into American laws and institutions throughout history. Most public school officials across the country say they do not teach the theory.

“We are glad the College Board has recognized that the originally submitted course curriculum is problematic, and we are encouraged to see the College Board express a willingness to amend,” Alex Lanfranconi, director of communications for the Florida Department of Education, said in a statement on Wednesday. “AP courses are standardized nationwide, and as a result of Florida’s strong stance against identity politics and indoctrination, students across the country will consequentially have access to an historically accurate, unbiased course.”

On Wednesday, Pritzker urged the College Board to “refuse to bow to political pressure” and maintain its course. “I am extremely troubled by recent news reports that claim Governor DeSantis is pressuring the College Board to change the AP African American Studies course in order to fit Florida’s racist and homophobic laws,” he wrote, adding that he will “not accept any watering down” of history.

The College Board, in its Thursday letter to its members, said the course has “been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices.” More than 300 professors of African American Studies from more than 200 colleges nationwide, including dozens of historically Black colleges and universities, were consulted in developing the official course framework. The yearlong framework development process was completed in December.

“We invite everyone to read the framework for themselves when it is released; it is a historic document that deserves your attention,” the letter from College Board said.

Andrew Atterbury and Shia Kapos contributed to this report.

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