The College Board is not backing down in its defense of its new AP African American studies course, even as the state of Florida continues to ask questions about its value.
In a letter to the Florida Department of Education on Thursday, the company that publishes Advanced Placement courses took issue with the department’s statements that the course violates Florida law and that portions of it are “historically fictional.”
It also rebuked contentions in a Feb. 7 letter from the department that changes to the course had anything to do with complaints raised by the department or Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, widely expected to run for president in 2024, announced in January that he had rejected the course because it “lacks educational value.”
His statement set off a firestorm nationally, sparking a broader debate over lessons relating to race and its role in society, which many conservatives have grouped together and called “critical race theory.”
“As is always the case in AP, our selection of topics for this course has been guided by feedback from educators, disciplinary experts, and principles that have long shaped AP courses,” the College Board wrote in an unsigned letter also posted on its website. “Your letter claims that we removed 19 topics that were present in the pilot framework at the behest of FDOE. This is inaccurate.”
In its Feb. 7 letter, the department suggested that changes to the course came “by no coincidence” after the governor said the course would be rejected in Florida if it remained as written. It also laid out a timeline in which it showed from its perspective how the state explained that the course did not meet all requirements of Florida law and rule.
“Florida’s position had not changed. Florida remained consistent in its review process of the course,” the department wrote.
The College Board took issue with the department’s statements. It wrote that the department never provided written feedback about how the course violates Florida law, despite repeated requests.
The “first and only written feedback” came in the form of a Jan. 20 tweet from education commissioner Manny Diaz.
“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 College Board wrote.
It similarly dismissed the department’s assertion that the course was “historically fictional,” adding that the department did not offer details on that, either: “We are confident in the historical accuracy of every topic included in the pilot framework, as well as those now in the official framework.”
In its letter to the College Board, the department stated that it looked forward to the resubmission of the updated course for consideration. The College Board responded by saying if Florida or any state rejects the course, it would regret the decision, as would students and educators.
“We believe every student should have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the facts and evidence of the African American experience, regardless of where those students live,” it wrote. “This course has a great deal to offer to students from every background, and it is particularly resonant for African American students.”
Florida has a strong track record of access to AP courses, the College Board noted: It’s letter said 29% of Black students in Florida’s class of 2021 took an AP course during their time in high school — “the third highest rate in the country.”
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