TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The revised Advanced Placement African American Studies course framework was released by the College Board on Wednesday, publishing changes to a politically-heated pilot program that was rejected by Florida officials.
The previous version had drawn criticism from the state’s Department of Education and Gov. Ron DeSantis for not complying with state education standards and laws about curriculum, such as Florida’s Stop WOKE Act.
The revised framework makes the parts that were deemed contrary to state laws now optional, only including them as research topics for end-of-course project topics, “not a required part of the course framework that is formally adopted by states” or used for the official AP exams to earn college credits.
When unveiling the new framework for the APAAS course, the College Board said in a press release that the official version differs in “three important respects.”
- New topics added: Despite an overall reduction in the breadth of the course, the monthslong review by 300 African American Studies professors nationwide added a small number of topics to address important subjects that were not adequately represented in the pilot version.
- Primary sources: The official course framework only requires the careful analysis of core historical, literary, and artistic works. As stated in the principles for AP courses published in March 2021: “AP courses ground such studies in primary sources so that students can evaluate experiences and evidence for themselves.” Hence, consistent now with every other AP course, there is no required list of secondary sources.
- Student projects: The official course framework dedicates time for students to explore topics in greater depth through a research project at the end of the course that counts as part of their AP Exam score. Students pursue their own interests and choose their topic; they can return to areas they studied earlier in the course or address contemporary topics that are not part of the required course framework. These projects allow in-depth examination of contemporary issues rather than rapid, superficial coverage of them at the end of the course.
Developers who worked on designing the course for the Advance Placement program said the curriculum did not shy away from facts or history, and that no one was left out of the program’s lesson plans.
“This course is an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture,” David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said. “No one is excluded from this course: the Black artists and inventors whose achievements have come to light; the Black women and men, including gay Americans, who played pivotal roles in the civil rights movement; and people of faith from all backgrounds who contributed to the antislavery and civil rights causes. Everyone is seen.”
With the new framework published, a spokesman for the state of Florida said it was again under review.
“The Florida Department of Education is currently reviewing the newly released AP African American Studies framework for corrections and compliance with Florida law,” according to a spokesman for the governor’s office. They continued, saying officials would be in contact once “determinations have been rendered” regarding the course’s inclusion.
Similarly, when asked about the new AP course framework during a question and answer session in Tallahassee, DeSantis said he had not reviewed it yet and would respond to it later on.
While Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. had pointed out the state of Florida mandates teaching of African American history by law, officials would not “accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education.”
As the discourse surrounding the course, and its rejection by state officials, heated up, the College Board announced the course details that had drawn fire from the state was not the final version, and an official framework would be released at the start of Black History Month.
Soon after, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and a group of Florida Democratic lawmakers, students, and other advocates announced their intent to sue the governor, depending on the revisions to the framework.
In response to the warning of a potential lawsuit from Crump and the gathered Florida Democrats, a representative for the Florida Dept. of Education said “This threat is nothing more than a meritless publicity stunt.”
The rejection of the course has also been politically relevant outside of just Florida. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre commented that the rejection by DeSantis and Florida education leaders was “incomprehensible,” while Florida Democrats had also criticized the decision.
As previously reported, Illinois’ Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker sent a letter to the College Board after the revision announcement, posted publicly on his social media, that said if the course is changed in response to DeSantis and Florida, the state of Illinois would reject it instead, teeing up an ideological fight over the course’s content.
Pritzker’s letter was accompanied by a statement on Twitter saying Illinois’ students “expect any AP course to include the facts — the honest and accurate history of our nation. Anything less is bound to lead to a repeat of the mistakes of the past, furthering the Florida Governor’s racist and homophobic agenda.”
The College Board insisted that the APAAS course was not changed under political pressure, and that the content of AP courses was used nationally, regardless of state regulations, laws, or curriculum.
Reactions from some organizations in the state have been negative, at least for the Florida Parent Teacher Association and even some religious groups.
Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg has pledged to teach the preliminary version of the course, not the “watered-down” version released Wednesday. They have a survey linked on their main website to gauge interest.
The Florida PTA issued a statement, saying they looked forward to reviewing the new curriculum plan but noting their previous opposition to education laws passed in 2022.
“During the 2022 Legislative Session, in alignment with National PTA’s position statements on Inclusive Curricula in K-12 Education, Libraries and Educational Material, and Say Their Names: Addressing Systematic or Institutional Racism, Florida PTA firmly opposed HB 7 (Individual Freedom), HB 1557 (Parental Rights in Education), and HB 1467 (K-12 Education),” the organization said in a statement. “We raised concerns that the ambiguous wording of these bills held the potential to privilege subjective judgments, and hence to trigger attempts to impose school-site censorship.”
WFLA.com reached out to civil rights attorney Crump to request comment on the revised course and the status of his previously announced intent to sue. We are awaiting response.