March 31, 2023

The College Board hit back at Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) on Saturday for rejecting their pilot Advanced Placement African American Studies course – and using his public rejection for political gain.

In an open letter published over the weekend, the educational nonprofit characterized the DeSantis administration’s vocal rejection of the course as a “PR stunt” used to further the governor’s agenda. The organization also expressed regret over not addressing DeSantis’ attacks sooner.

“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments, that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value,’” they wrote.

The organization said that their “failure” to speak out “betrayed Black scholars everywhere.”

“We are proud of this course,” the letter said. “But we have made mistakes in the rollout that are being exploited.”

The College Board also addressed criticism that arose after they released the final version of the course on Feb. 1. Specifically, they denied accusations that they stripped down the course’s political content to appease lawmakers. Activists and educators condemned the Board for replacing material related to the modern social justice issues with a suggestion towards Black conservatism, but the nonprofit said that the material was always optional.

“We should have made clear that contemporary events like the Black Lives Matter movement, reparations, and mass incarceration were optional topics in the pilot course,” the letter states. 

The nonprofit also directly addressed a Feb. 7 letter that the FDOE released, taking credit for the updated syllabus. “That FDOE and the College Board have been communicating since January 2022 regarding the proposed course is remarkable,” their letter states. “We do appreciate the regular, two-way verbal and written dialogue on this important topic.”

This, the College Board argues, is a “false and politically motivated charge.”

“Our exchanges with them are actually transactional emails about the filing of paperwork to request a pilot course code,and our response to their request that the College Board explain why we believe the course is not in violation of Florida laws, the College Board wrote.”

They also said that they didn’t negotiate with the FDOE, let alone any state, on the material.

The College Board said that their communications with the FDOE were mostly “absent of substance”: “In the discussion, they did not offer feedback but instead asked vague, uninformed questions like, ‘What does the word ‘intersectionality’ mean?’ and ‘Does the course promote Black Panther thinking?’”

The nonprofit claims that the FDOE never sent them feedback after these calls, but opted to release the Jan. 12 letter, “now with inflated rhetoric and posturing,” saying the course “lacks educational value” as a publicity stunt.

In the Feb. 7 letter, the DeSantis administration also thanked the College Board for removing 19 topics, none of which the College Board claims they were asked to remove, and most of which are still in the final coursework. They also claimed that the College Board removed terms like “systemic marginalization” and “intersectionality” at the FDOE’s request, which is also untrue, according to the College Board.

“The notion that we needed Florida to enlighten us that these terms are politicized in several states is ridiculous,” the nonprofit said. “We took a hard look at these terms because they often are misunderstood, misrepresented, and co-opted as political weapons.”

In the end, the College Board lambasted the FDOE for trying to “engineer a political win.”

“Florida is attempting to claim a political victory by taking credit retroactively for changes we ourselves made but that they never suggested to us,” the letter states.

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