In an open letter released Thursday, College Board disputed several claims Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials have made against a recently implemented Advanced Placement African-American Studies curriculum.

The letter, which is dated Feb. 8, said College Board said it welcomed "this opportunity to address some key points from your recent communications regarding AP African American Studies."

What You Need To Know

  •  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently rejected a pilot AP African-American Studies curriculum for Florida schools

  •  The governor argued that parts of the course framework violated state law and constituted "indoctrination" not education

  • College Board, an American nonprofit that oversees Advanced Placement courses, disputed many of DeSantis' and other state officials' arguments against the course

The course is currently operating as a pilot program, with 60 schools across the country participating in the 2022-2023 school year. The pilot is scheduled to expand to hundreds of additional schools in the 2023-2024 school year before being offered to all schools in the 2024-2025 school year.

DeSantis recently rejected the course, saying it pushes a political agenda, and because in Florida “we want education, not indoctrination.” The Florida Department of Education recently told the College Board it would bar the course unless they made changes.

Part of the problem, the governor says, is that the course violates legislation dubbed the "Stop WOKE Act" that he signed into law last year. Some writers cited in the AP course believe modern U.S. society endorses white supremacy while oppressing racial minorities, gays and women, which would be prohibited under the law because it bars instruction that defines people as oppressed or privileged based on their race.

In a letter Tuesday to the College Board, Florida Department of Education said it was “grateful” to see that a Feb. 1 revision had deleted 19 topics, including Intersectionality, Reparations and the Movement for Black Lives. It also welcomed the College Board to resubmit the course for Florida to review for its 2023-24 school year.

In response, the College Board said it tried to address some of the issues pointed out by the governor and Florida Department of Education in September of 2022, but never received promised feedback from him or the Florida Department of Education.

"On three occasions beginning in September 2022, we requested from FDOE specific information about why the pilot course was deemed out of compliance with Florida law," the letter said. "We received a commitment that such feedback would be provided, but it never was."

The only communication between Florida and the College Board, the letter alleges, was via a tweet sent by education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., on Jan. 20, that laid out objections to six parts of the proposed curriculum. 

The College Board argued that "four of the six course elements criticized in that tweet were in fact not present in the actual pilot framework," which was provided to the state in July of 2022.

The tweet also noted a chapter on "Black Queer Studies" that DeSantis administration has previously objected to, calling it inappropriate coursework that includes articles written by people who oppose capitalism.

In its letter, the College Board claimed that area of study did not exist in the curriculum, saying "no such topic appears in the July 2022 pilot course framework."

"Historically Fictional"

The letter goes on to address other objections from the state, including those involving topics they claimed were "historically fictional."

The College Board noted that correspondence from Florida officials did not specify the "fictional" topics, and did not explain why they decided to categorize them that way.

"We are confident in the historical accuracy of every topic included in the pilot framework, as well as those now in the official framework," the letter said.

It also addresses claims that the College Board removed 19 topics from the pilot curriculum "at the behest of FDOE."

"This is inaccurate," the letter said. "AP's pilot process is always designed to reduce the number of topics to a scope and sequence appropriate for teaching and learning in a single academic year. Data from faculty nationwide and surveys of college syllabi indicated in spring 2022 a need to reduce the number of topics in the pilot framework by 20%."

"We must also clarify that no Black scholars or authors have been removed from the course," the letter later noted. "In fact, contemporary scholars and authors are never mandated in any AP framework."

"Educational Value"

Continuing to address the topics that were removed from the course framework, the College Board noted that none of them "were removed because they lacked educational value." Responding to specific topics brought up by the state in correspondence with College Board personnel, the letter said "we believe all the topics listed in your letter have substantial educational value."

DeSantis has been vocal about barring education on topics that violate state law.

“The issue is we have guidelines and standards in Florida," he recently said during a press conference. "We want education, not indoctrination. If you fall on the side of indoctrination, we’re going to decline. If it’s education, then we will do."

Addressing that issue, the letter said: 

"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. 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 providing diverse students with access to AP courses: 29% of Black students in Florida’s class of 2021 took an AP course while in high school — the third highest rate in the country."

The College Board's letter closed by arguing for the AP African-American Studies curriculum to be allowed in Florida schools.

"If Florida or any state chooses not to adopt this course, we would regret that decision, and we believe educators and students would as well," it said. "We look forward to continuing to work together to deliver opportunities for Florida students. 

Visit the College Board's website to view the full letter.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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