College Board Refuses To Alter Courses Despite Request From Florida Officials

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The College Board sent a letter to the Florida Department of Education on Thursday affirming that it will not modify any more of its courses, including psychology courses on gender and sexual orientation, to comply with state laws passed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that restricts classroom instruction topics.

“Please know that we will not modify our courses to accommodate restrictions on teaching essential, college-level topics,” the College Board said in the letter. “Doing so would break the fundamental promise of AP: colleges wouldn’t broadly accept that course for credit and that course wouldn’t prepare students for success in the discipline.”

Despite pushback from LGBTQ groups, the DeSantis administration has championed restrictions to classroom instruction and discussions on topics such as gender and sexual orientation. In March 2022, DeSantis passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which restricts such topics for students in kindergarten through third grade.

Last month, DeSantis expanded the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to apply to all grades, which will take effect on July 1. The ban had been approved by the state’s Board of Education a month prior, on the same day it amended its rule that now prohibits Florida educators from intentionally providing classroom instruction to grades four through 12 on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Following the expanded law and amended rule, some Florida school districts brought up concerns regarding AP Psychology, a course that has a learning objective that covers gender and sexuality, Politico reported.

On May 19, Florida’s Education Department sent a letter to the College Board requesting that the nonprofit conduct an audit of its AP (Advanced Placement) courses and modify them to be in compliance with Florida law and the Board of Education’s amended rule.

The College Board denied the department’s request for an audit on Thursday, stating that the psychology course — as well as all other AP courses — should remain unchanged.

“That learning objective must remain a required topic, just as it has been in Florida for many years. As with all AP courses, required topics must be included for a course to be designated as AP,” the College Board said in its letter.

“Participation in AP courses has always been a choice. Families can review AP course content and make informed decisions about whether they want their students to participate. Millions of Florida students and their families have chosen AP courses for their high standards and college-level content.”

It is still unclear whether Florida will block AP Psychology courses from schools in the state.

“[The] College Board is responsible for ensuring that their submitted materials comply with Florida law,” a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education told HuffPost in an email.

Defending Florida’s policies, the spokesperson spoke critically of the College Board, accusing the organization of being “susceptible to outside influence by mainstream media and political activists.”

The College Board’s move follows a similar monthslong debacle with the DeSantis Administration.

In August 2022, the College Board announced its new AP African American Studies, which was lauded by scholars who emphasized the importance of teaching Black history.

But DeSantis banned the new AP African American Studies curriculum in January, claiming that it “significantly lacks educational value” and violates state law that restricts schools from teaching about systemic inequality. The State Department of Education backed the ban, stating it would not approve the course unless the College Board altered it to comply with the state law.

In response, the College Board released an amended version of the curriculum in April that omitted topics that DeSantis objected to. The College Board’s overhaul of the curriculum prompted outrage from hundreds of faculty members and scholars, who wrote a letter condemning DeSantis’ ban.

Critics asserted that the College Board “bowed to political pressure.” The nonprofit intends to amend the course once again.

“We are committed to providing an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture,” the College Board said in April.

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