Taken aback by Florida’s attacks against its new AP African American studies course, the College Board late Saturday denounced the state Department of Education, saying it used the course to advance a politically motivated agenda.
The organization’s letter, published at 8 p.m. Saturday, came just two days after it released another statement that did not take such a harsh tone as it pushed back against the department’s claims that portions of the course are “historically fictional.”
“There continue to be conversations and misinformation, and we felt the urgency to set the record straight and not wait another day to do so,” a College Board spokesperson said. The College Board publishes AP courses and exams.
In its latest unsigned statement, the College Board said it is proud of its “historic” course, which has been crafted by renowned scholars. It acknowledged it made mistakes during the rollout and accused Florida of exploiting the situation.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has criticized the course and said Florida would not accept it without revisions. DeSantis has been using attacks against the way race is taught in schools, calling it “woke,” in many speeches amid wide speculation that he will use the issue as part of a presidential campaign.
Neither the governor’s office nor the Department of Education had responded to a request for comment on the College Board’s statement as of Sunday afternoon.
The College Board stated in its latest letter that it regrets not having denounced the Florida Department of Education’s “slander” that the course “lacks educational value.” The failure to speak up “betrayed Black scholars everywhere,” the College Board wrote.
It said it also should have made more clear that the course outline did not include all the scholarly articles, lectures and other materials that will be part of the course. That led to the idea that some important thinkers were eliminated, it said — something Florida officials claimed credit for.
“The vitriol aimed at these scholars is repulsive and must stop,” the group wrote.
The College Board made other defenses of the materials and the course preparation. Then it turned its sights on Florida’s interaction with the course.
It called the Department of Education’s claims that it had been in frequent dialogue with the College Board over the course content “a false and politically motivated charge.”
Florida officials have claimed credit for changes made to the course outline.
“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,” the College Board wrote.
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It said the organization was “naive” not to publicize Florida’s course rejection when it first came in September. It said the letter misspelled the word “African” and contained no explanation of the rejection.
Florida asked the College Board to call with questions, which it said it did. “These phone calls with FDOE (the Florida Department of Education) were absent of substance, despite the audacious claims of influence FDOE is now making.”
Rather, the letter states, the department official asked “vague, uninformed questions” and did not bring any African American studies experts to the call. The College Board said it asked for specific concerns in writing.
“They never sent us any feedback, but instead sent a second letter to us on January 12, 2023, as a PR stunt which repeated the same rejection but now with inflated rhetoric and posturing, saying the course lacked ‘educational value,’” the group wrote.
The College Board said it made a mistake in treating the department with the courtesy it usually gives to education agencies, “but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda.”
It contended that Florida’s effort to “engineer a political win” included claiming credit for specific changes to the course framework. It said the department leaked to reporters the state’s Feb. 7 letter to the College Board. In that letter, the Department of Education expresses gratitude for the removal of 19 topics.
The College Board said Saturday that the state never asked for those 19 topics to be removed, and that most remain in the official framework.
The department continues to deride African American studies by describing key topics as “historically fictional,” the College Board said. Requests for more explanation have not been answered, it added.
“The College Board condemns this uninformed caricature of African American Studies and the harm it does to scholars and students,” the College Board wrote.
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