Close to 30,000 Florida high school students are registered for the Advanced Placement psychology course in the coming school year.
Whether they’ll get to take it remains to be seen.
Officials from districts throughout Florida said they were confused about the course status because of state-level actions that appeared to conflict.
In June, the College Board, which provides Advanced Placement courses, said it would not comply with the Department of Education’s mandate that lessons about gender identity and sexual orientation be removed. Department officials signaled that, without changes, the course would not be permitted.
At its July 19 meeting, however, the State Board of Education adopted an 867-page document detailing all social studies courses approved for schools to offer. AP psychology appeared on page 666, followed by the Cambridge AICE and International Baccalaureate versions.
The course content, which had disappeared from the state’s CPALMS website on standards and course descriptions, reappeared soon after.
More than one district curriculum director said the Department of Education had not put any clear direction in writing. That has left schools to equivocate when asked about the situation.
“There is some discussion about whether it will be offered,” said Vanessa Hilton, Pasco County chief academic officer. “Right now it is on kids’ course schedules.”
In an abundance of caution, the Pasco district has asked parents of students enrolled in the course to sign a consent form agreeing to allow their children access to the full content.
Dan Evans, chief academic officer for Pinellas County schools, said his district has offered AP psychology for years, and it’s always been popular.
“It’s offered at all of our high schools, and it’s going to be offered again this year,” Evans said. He paused and added, “We’re going to do our best to navigate the course this year and stay within the law. We’re still waiting on further guidance from the DOE.”
That direction could be coming soon.
The department had scheduled a Monday conference call with superintendents to discuss AP psychology and several other back-to-school topics. Over the weekend, though, superintendents got word that the session would be postponed until later in the week.
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A spokesperson for the College Board said the group hopes to get some clarity. It has received calls from several concerned parents and students who want to know if the course, which can generate college credits if students perform well enough, will be available in Florida.
The College Board has been waiting to respond until it gets more information. In the meantime, it encouraged parents and students to do their homework while picking their classes.
It also endorsed concepts such as parent consent forms.
“We support this action as we respect students’ ability to pursue college-level material and the right of families to decide what they want their students to learn,” the College Board said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “We encourage the Florida Department of Education to support this fair and transparent approach and not deny families the ability to choose coursework that aligns with their child’s educational pursuits.”
The group reiterated its position that the materials relating to gender identity and sexual orientation must remain in the course if it is to remain a credible college level course.
“The (American Psychological Association) recently reaffirmed that any course that excludes this topic would violate their guidelines and should not be considered for college credit,” the College Board said.
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