Here’s what Arkansas teachers were told about AP African American Studies just 48 hours before the start of the 2023-24 school year: They could teach the college-level course, but students would not get credit for passing it.
That decision by the state’s Department of Education makes Arkansas the second state after Florida to block the highly anticipated class that the College Board had been piloting in a growing number of high schools over the last few years.
High school educators were notified of the change in a phone call last week with state officials who also told the teachers that the Department of Education would not cover the $90 fee for the end-of-year AP African American Studies test, the Arkansas Times reported.
Several teachers had spent the summer preparing to teach the course, the Arkansas Times noted, adding that state officials could not be reached for an explanation. But Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Arkansas Secretary of Education Jacob Oliva had earlier this year embarked on a wide-ranging K12 curriculum review, looking to rout out “indoctrination and critical race theory,” the Arkansas Times explained.
Controversy first flared earlier this year when the College Board notoriously altered the AP African American Studies curriculum to appease Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and members of his administration who had barred the course from Florida high schools. DeSantis administration officials rejected AP African-American Studies because they believed it “lacks educational value,” is historically inaccurate, and veers into critical race theory in violation of Florida’s controversial Stop WOKE Act, the National Review reported last month.
The College Board removed many Black scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism from the official curriculum, The New York Times reported. The College Board also scrubbed Black Lives Matter and added “Black conservatism” as a potential research topic, the Times says.
“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 in a statement in April. “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.”
AP African American Studies will continue to be piloted this school year, and in about 800 high schools, which was twice what the College Board had anticipated prior to a surge in demand, USA Today reported.