College Board pushes back against Florida’s characterization of new AP African American studies course

The College Board expressed regret for "not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education's "slander" and claimed that remaining silent "betrayed Black scholars everywhere."

The College Board is fighting back and “setting the record right” in response to Florida’s criticism and eventual ban of its Advanced Placement African American studies course.

According to The Washington Post, the organization in charge of the SAT and the AP program took to Twitter on Saturday to “clear the air” and slam Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his state’s Education Department, calling their criticism of the course “slander.”

The College Board expressed regret for “not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander,” reported The Post, and claimed that remaining silent “betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field.”

AP African American studies class,
Emmitt Glynn teaches AP African American studies — which has gained national attention since it was banned in Florida — to a group of Baton Rouge Magnet High School students on Jan. 30 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The College Board is now pushing back against Florida’s “slander” toward the course. (Photo: Stephen Smith/AP)

AP African American studies, according to its official framework, “foregrounds a study of the diversity of Black communities in the United States within the broader context of Africa and the African diaspora” and has drawn condemnation from both the political right and left.

The College Board’s comments follow a previous statement from Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cassie Palelis. She claimed that the AP class, currently offered as a pilot program in about 60 public high schools across America, “lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law,” suggesting that it contained false information.

DeSantis said last month that the course taught components of a “political agenda.” He recently called for defunding diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in Florida’s colleges and institutions. 

More recently, some people on the left in the academic field criticized the College Board for changes it made to the course, which they perceive as yielding to conservatives but the nonprofit has maintained were apolitical.

Florida’s Education Department reportedly privately protested the class to the College Board for months. The state agency expressed gratitude that the organization made certain changes to the training but said it needed more details before approving it.

The College Board asserted on Saturday that the correspondence with the state had just been “transactional emails” and that officials neglected to name specific issues with course material.

In Florida, the pilot AP course in Black studies was available in only five schools across four school districts this academic year. After the state indicated it would not approve the course, the district with two of those schools halted it.

The College Board added that when Florida informed the nonprofit of its decision to reject the course, its representatives called the state for an explanation, which resulted in phone calls that “were absent of substance,” according to The Post.

“In the discussion, they did not offer feedback,” the College Board said, “but instead asked vague, uninformed questions like, ‘What does the word “intersectionality” mean?’ and ‘Does the course promote Black Panther thinking?'”

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