More scrutiny focused on College Board’s AP African American Studies course

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Several additional states are reviewing the College Board’s new Advanced Placement African American Studies course, following in the footsteps of Florida leaders who made the controversial decision in late January to reject the original framework after saying it “lacks educational value.” 

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked state Education Secretary Aimee Guidera to review the course, according to Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for Youngkin. The governor’s request cited his 2022 executive order he hoped would end “the use of inherently divisive concepts,” a policy similar to others adopted by a majority of red states regulating how race-related subjects are taught in K-12 classrooms.

The Mississippi Department of Education is also in the process of reviewing the revised curriculum, which the College Board released earlier this month, “to ensure it is compliant with state law and MDE policies,” said Jean Gordon Cook, chief of communications for the department. 

Arkansas likewise confirmed it will assess the course “to ensure students are taught factual history and that participation articulates into college credit that is beneficial to students,” said Kimberly Mundell, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Education, in an email. North Dakota is another state that has jumped on the bandwagon to review whether the course is in line with its laws, according to reports from The Washington Post.

Reviews of the course in states that limit race-related instruction come as the College Board is piloting the course this school year at 60 schools nationwide. On Feb. 1, at the start of Black History Month, the organization released a final revised framework that differed significantly from the original. The final version made many topics and authors “optional,” including reparations and intersectionality, or stripped them entirely, as in the case of Black Queer studies. 

The College Board called this revision process “a standard part of any new AP course” but admitted in a summary of its changes that there was “an overall reduction in the breadth of the course.” 

The College Board has said it planned to expand the course availability in the 2023-24 school year and expects the course to be available to all interested high schools starting in 2024-25. 

However, at least 13 states have laws similar to Florida’s regulating race-related issues in the classroom, according to a database compiled by PEN America. Citing parental rights in education, these states have often passed policies restricting curriculum on topics considered controversial. 

That’s despite a poll of over 1,500 voters nationwide, including 558 public school parents, released Jan. 13 by the American Federation of Teachers showing only 21% of parents said teachers often go too far in promoting a “woke” political agenda in the classroom. Nearly three-fourths of parents said teachers in their schools generally stick to teaching appropriate academic content and skills in education.

Rather than imposing policies regulating race and gender curricula, voters cited their top priorities for K-12 schools as teaching academic skills, providing equal opportunity, and ensuring safe environments in which to learn.

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