The feud between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the College Board over Florida rejecting the AP African American studies course escalated Monday with DeSantis threatening to drop the organization’s Advanced Placement classes from Florida high schools.
“So this College Board, nobody elected them to anything. They’re just kind of there and provide this service, and you can utilize those services or not,” DeSantis said when asked to comment on the College Board’s statement over the weekend that the Florida Department of Education had slandered it. “They provided these AP courses for a long time but there are probably some other vendors able to do their job as good and maybe a lot better.”
He said he talked to House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, about it, “and maybe the Legislature’s going to look to reevaluate how they’re doing that.”
The state’s colleges and universities can give high school students college credit for successfully passing AP exams.
The College Board is also the maker of the SAT. Florida students need either an SAT score or one from the rival ACT to apply to Florida universities or seek to qualify for the Bright Futures scholarship program. Currently, more Florida students take the SAT.
If AP courses are not available, students could seek to earn college credit through dual enrollment with state colleges or through other programs such as AICE and International Baccalaureate, but neither is as widely available as AP classes.
DeSantis said he objected to the African American studies course including queer theory, intersectionality, and “other types of neo-Marxism in the proposed syllabus.”
Florida and the College Board have been at odds publicly for a month over the course being piloted this school year.
On Sunday, the College Board, whose AP program includes 38 courses, accused Florida of “slander” and said it complained about the African American studies class for “their political agenda.”
The organization said it regretted that it had not denounced the Florida education department’s comments about the course sooner and more forcibly. The department last month said the pilot version of the class “lacks educational value” and included topics that violate Florida law, such as "critical race theory," and would “indoctrinate” students.
“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments,” the College Board statement said. “Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field.”
The College Board also said that Florida officials told it in September that the AP African American studies course was unacceptable but refused to provide details about its objections, a charge the organization also made last week after the department released a timeline of contact with the College Board.
The College Board described those contacts as mostly “transactional” and said no one from the department explained the objections.
A conversation with education department officials provided no details either as department staff asked “uninformed questions,” such as, “Does the course promote Black Panther thinking?” the College Board’s statement said.
Though Florida rejected the AP course on Sept. 23, that news was not made public until Jan. 12. That day the department sent a second letter saying the course was rejected as “a ‘PR stunt’ which repeated the same rejection but now with inflated rhetoric and posturing, saying the course lacked ‘educational value,’” the College Board said.
“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.
Florida has had a long-standing partnership with the College Board, dating back to former Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration, and has long encouraged high school students to take AP classes, which aim to mimic introductory college courses and offer students a chance to earn college credit. The state pays student exam fees and bonuses to teachers whose students pass those tests.
Two years ago the education department put out a press release saying “Florida Soars on Advanced Placement Performance,” noting it led the nation in AP participation in 2021. In 2022, Florida high school students took nearly 364,000 AP exams, College Board data shows.
Many Florida students take AP classes in part to make them competitive in college admissions. The University of Florida’s college planning guide, for example, tells students to “take Honors, AP, IB, AICE or academic dual-enrollment classes if they are offered.”
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