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The College Board slams DeSantis administration comments on African American studies

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to guests at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting.

The College Board on Saturday pushed back on reports of communication with Florida over its new African American studies course amid weeks of intense scrutiny — including claims the nonprofit caved to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ objections.

“We need to clear the air and set the record straight,” the nonprofit said in a statement labeling as “slander” the DeSantis administration’s comments about how the new course “lacks educational value.”

The College Board also doubled down on its assertion that it did not negotiate the content of the course with Florida or any other state.

“While it has been claimed that the College Board was in frequent dialogue with Florida about the content of AP African American Studies, this is a false and politically motivated charge,” the College Board said in a lengthy statement.

“Our exchanges with them are actually transactional email about the filing of paperwork to request a pilot course code and our response to their request that the College Board explain why we believe the course is not in violation of Florida laws,” it added.

The new statement is the latest in a tense battle over who is responsible for the outcome of the new framework for the course, which will launch in the 2024-2025 school year. The College Board has been preparing the course for about a decade and included the expertise of more than 300 professors of African American Studies from more than 200 colleges nationwide as it decided which subjects would be in the curriculum.

The Florida Department of Education claims that state officials had been in contact with the College Board since January 2022 regarding the course and first questioned if it was legal under state law in July. In a July letter, the DeSantis administration claimed the pilot course would violate the state’s anti-“woke” laws that restrict how race can be taught in the classroom.

The College Board argued that its revisions were completed by Dec. 22, which the nonprofit said came “weeks before Florida’s objections were shared.”

A new course framework — which excluded the lessons on Black queer studies and Black Lives Matters that were in a pilot of the course — was released in early February and almost immediately sparked outrage from Democratic governors who accused the nonprofit of catering to DeSantis. However, those topics were listed as potential ideas for students to pursue in their 1,500-word mandatory project. Nevertheless, the nonprofit has faced severe scrutiny from Democratic governors, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and education advocates since the unveiling.

DeSantis claimed victory immediately. The College Board has been fighting ever since to prove neither Florida or any other state has influenced the curriculum for the AP African American Studies course.

Florida officials have said they are “grateful” that the College Board removed some 19 topics from the African American Studies framework, which the state said included “discriminatory and historically fictional topics.”

Florida education officials this week released a letter to show they initially raised questions in July about whether the Advanced Placement coursework was legal under the state’s laws. The a letter proves communication between the state and the nonprofit, but the College Board said it responded to a September letter from Florida officials that rejected the course.

The letter to the College Board, the nonprofit wrote, “like all written communications we received from Florida, contained no explanation of the rejection.” The nonprofit called state officials, which it said it would do with any state, but slammed the state education department, saying their calls were “absent of substance, despite the audacious claims of influence FDOE is now making.”

“We have made the mistake of treating FDOE with the courtesy we always accord to an education agency, but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda,” the College Board said, adding that it “politely thanked them for their feedback and contributions, although they had given none.”

The College Board contends that the state officials did not offer feedback and did not bring any experts to their calls, but sent its second January letter “as a PR stunt which repeated the same rejection but now with inflated rhetoric and posturing.”

“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments, that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value,’” the College Board said in a statement on Saturday. “Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere.”

The Florida Department of Education is expected to review the AP course for consideration in schools starting next fall.


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