TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In the intervening week since the College Board released an updated framework for its Advanced Placement African American Studies course, the nonprofit alleges the Florida Department of Education’s claim that topics were removed at its behest is untrue.
While the letter itself addresses multiple issues surrounding discourse about the curriculum rejected by state officials, it lists five main points that push back against what it calls a lack of feedback, a lack of clarity, and inaccuracies.
The letter is a follow-up after weeks of back-and-forth between the FDOE, comments by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Ed. Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., protests by a combination of students, lawmakers, and civil rights advocates, and a larger national conversation about the course’s content.
Additionally, the College Board said the process of developing any new AP course is one that takes several years, including discussions with state departments of education across the United States.
Including Florida, the College Board said they wanted to ensure that potential concerns had a chance to be considered and incorporated, but “only if it is academically valid.”
To that end, the board wrote that claims by FDOE officials that there was “historically inaccurate” information in the course were wrong and that they still have yet to receive feedback as to what issues Florida had with the course’s content.
Somewhat in the vein of teaching facts or ideas in an academic setting to encourage discussion from multiple viewpoints, the College Board wrote that the framework requires “students to analyze and present evidence on all sides of a topic or debate for the project they select,” and that the focus of the curriculum was on primary documents and “places where the historical record is clear.”
Referring to a letter sent to the College Board by FDOE on Feb. 7, the board says the idea that they had “removed 19 topics that were present in the pilot framework at the behest of FDOE,” is not accurate.
Read the full list of responses from the College Board to FDOE below
Addressing what the organization calls an imperative need for clarity in its discussions with Florida and other states when developing course content, the College Board lists the following items as necessary for discussion.
- We never received written feedback from the Florida Department of Education specifying how the course violates Florida law, despite repeated requests. 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. We received a commitment that such feedback would be provided, but it never was.
The first and only written feedback we have received was through a tweet from Commissioner Diaz posted on January 20, 2023. Four of the six course elements criticized in that tweet were in fact not present in the actual pilot framework we provided you in July 2022, including readings by Angela Davis and bell hooks, and references to Leslie Kay Jones and Roderick Ferguson. The tweet also objected to “Black Queer Studies,” though no such topic appears in the July 2022 pilot course framework.
- Your February 7, 2023 letter alludes to course topics that you characterize as “historically fictional,” but does not specify which topics or why. We are confident in the historical accuracy of every topic included in the pilot framework, as well as those now in the official framework.
- As is always the case in AP, our selection of topics for this course has been guided by feedback from educators, disciplinary experts, and principles that have long shaped AP courses. Your letter claims that we removed 19 topics that were present in the pilot framework at the behest of FDOE. This is inaccurate.
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%. The choice of which topics to remove drew on comparisons of the AP pilot framework to college syllabi and prioritized what is essential for college credit. We also drew on our principles for AP, including a focus on primary documents and places where the historical record is clear.
We must also clarify that no Black scholars or authors have been removed from the course. In fact, contemporary scholars and authors are never mandated in any AP framework. Instead, the AP Program utilizes our AP Classroom digital library to provide such resources, where teachers are free to assign readings but are not required to do so. Further, through the required project component, contemporary topics like the Movement for Black Lives and debates over incarceration and reparations can play a more significant role in earning college credit than in the pilot, where they were also elective but did not contribute to the exam score.
Within the official framework, the project design means that a student can select a contemporary topic and earn up to 20% of their exam score. As we state clearly in the framework – and consistent with the AP Principles – we require students to analyze and present evidence on all sides of a topic or debate for the project they select. To be clear, while a project is required, no specific topic is mandated.
- We did not provide FDOE a “preview” of the College Board’s official framework. We briefed FDOE on the content of the framework after it had been shared publicly on the morning of February 1, 2023. No one in the department had seen the official framework before it was finalized and publicly shared.
- Finally, we need to clarify that no topics were removed because they lacked educational value. We believe all the topics listed in your letter have substantial educational value.
In addition to the listed “inaccuracies” and items that never received feedback or discussion during the development of the course, the College Board said that it’s their belief that all students have an opportunity to learn about the topic.
“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,” the College Board said in a statement. “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. We look forward to continuing to work together to deliver opportunities for Florida students.”
WFLA.com has reached out to the Florida Dept. of Education for a response to the letter and is awaiting further comment from officials.