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College Board refuses to drop gender topics from AP psychology course

The Florida Department of Education asked the group to consider modifications to meet state law.
 
Attorney Ben Crump, left, stands with the three Leon County high school students who threatened to file a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis over the ban of a proposed Advanced Placement course on African America Studies. Now the state has asked the College Board to modify its AP psychology course to follow new rules on teaching about gender and sexuality. The College Board has refused.
Attorney Ben Crump, left, stands with the three Leon County high school students who threatened to file a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis over the ban of a proposed Advanced Placement course on African America Studies. Now the state has asked the College Board to modify its AP psychology course to follow new rules on teaching about gender and sexuality. The College Board has refused. [ ALICIA DEVINE/TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT | AP ]
Published June 15, 2023|Updated June 16, 2023

The national nonprofit that runs Advanced Placement classes has declined to alter its popular psychology course to meet Florida’s restrictions on teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation.

The Department of Education asked the College Board in May to consider modifying the material to ensure compliance with the State Board of Education’s new rule prohibiting instruction on those topics at all grade levels, unless it is expressly required in approved standards.

On Thursday, the College Board informed the department in a letter that it wouldn’t be making any changes.

“Please know that we will not modify our courses to accommodate restrictions on teaching essential, college-level topics,” the group wrote. “Doing so would break the fundamental promise of AP: colleges wouldn’t broadly accept that course for credit and that course wouldn’t prepare students for success in the discipline.”

Department of Education spokesperson Cassie Palelis said via email that the College Board is responsible for ensuring that all submitted materials comply with Florida law.

“It is worth noting that College Board does not maintain a reliable position and is susceptible to outside influence by the mainstream media and political activists,” Palelis added, pointing to a New York Times article detailing the organization’s efforts to revise its African American studies curriculum.

In its letter, the College Board noted that the American Psychological Association said gender and sexual orientation is “foundational” for any college-level course on the subject. Association chief executive officer Arthur C. Evans Jr. issued a statement applauding the College Board for rejecting Florida’s “unconscionable demand to censor an educational curriculum and test.”

Evans added: “Educators cannot teach psychology and exclude an entire group of people from the curriculum. Florida is proposing to remove an important body of science from the AP curriculum and test, which will leave students unprepared to continue studying psychology in college.”

The College Board’s refusal could lead to the psychology course being removed from high schools across Florida, although the organization said in a separate letter to its “AP community” that it hoped that would not occur. AP psychology is among the top programs the group offers in Florida, with nearly 30,000 students sitting for the exam in 2020.

Students use AP courses as a way to earn college-level credits, potentially saving them thousands of dollars in tuition. Florida has been among the national leaders in percentages of students taking and passing the exams, until recently celebrating this as a success.

“To AP teachers in Florida, we are heartbroken by the possibility of Florida students being denied the opportunity to participate in this or any other AP course,” the letter stated. “To AP teachers everywhere, please know we will not modify any of the 40 AP courses — from art history to science — in response to regulations that would censor college-level standards for credit, placement and career readiness.”

Earlier this year, College Board got caught up in accusations that it changed the framework of its new African American studies course to meet demands made by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who rejected the course, saying it lacked educational value. The College Board attempted to rebound from the allegations, and in April announced it would again revise the course to confront the criticisms.

It said Thursday it learned from the “mistakes” handling African American studies, and did not want to create a similar controversy again.

Around the same time that the College Board spoke of revamping the African American studies framework, Florida lawmakers took steps toward making Advanced Placement less relevant in the state. The Legislature included millions of dollars in the budget, which landed on DeSantis’ desk Thursday, for the creation of Florida-based advanced courses and exams.

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