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DeSantis eyes replacement for the College Board as fight continues over AP African American studies

 A portrait of Nelson Mandela on the side of the offices of attorney Annabelle Dias
Anna Jones
WFSU Public Media
A portrait of Nelson Mandela on the side of the offices of attorney Annabelle Dias

The College Board could lose more than a political fight with Florida over its Advanced Placement African American Studies course. Gov. Ron DeSantis has suggested the state should seek alternatives. The College Board administers the long-used SAT test for college admissions along with the popular AP courses that allow high schoolers to earn college credit.

"Of course, our universities can or can’t accept College Board courses for credit [and] maybe they’ll do others," DeSantis said in response to a question about the latest back-and-forth between the state and the College Board," which also oversees the SAT test for college admissions.

"As for the SAT vs. the ACT—I think they [universities] do both—but we’re going to evaluate how that process goes.”

The Florida Department of Education released a letter to the College Board last week that showed DOE officials raised concerns last July about parts of the AP course it thought could run afoul of state law. The disclosure appeared to contradict College Board’s claim that the first time it formally heard from Florida was in January. The College Board has since said the state never provided specifics regarding its concerns.

DeSantis told reporters Monday several states had reservations about the course, but that Florida was just the first to speak up.

“We were just the only ones who had the backbone to stand up and do it because they call you names and demagogue you when you do it. Listen, I’m so sick of people not doing what’s right because they’re worried people are going to call them names," the governor said.

In a statement, the College Board issued an apology while doubling down in its stance that no state, including Florida, influenced its decisions on what to include, and exclude in the final version of the course.

“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department Of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration's comments that African American studies lack educational value. Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere," said Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskoll, reading an excerpt from the statement the College Board released over the weekend.

The Board apologized for not pushing back hard enough on the DeSantis administration's claims. Its latest comments come as its CEO, David Coleman, is facing a call to resign from the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights group. The Coalition believes the College Board mislead the public about the nature of influence the DeSantis administration had over the final version of the AP course.

“We’re very glad to see the College Board speaking up and pushing back because Black history is American history and right now the road Florida’s leadership is taking us down is on the wrong side of history," said Driskoll.

At issue was the initial inclusion of topics like intersectionality and queer studies, which run afoul of state laws restricting how aspects of race, gender, sexuality and history can be taught and discussed in public school classrooms.

The topics are absent from the final interaction of the course, however, Coleman has noted that readings on intersectionality are included in the AP’s supplemental materials, called AP Classroom, which Florida education officials have requested to review.
Copyright 2023 WFSU.

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.