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Documents Show Extensive Contact Between Florida Officials and College Board over Past Year

While the College Board was developing its first Advanced Placement course in African American studies, the group was in repeated contact with the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, often discussing course concepts that the state said it found objectionable, a newly released letter shows.

When the final course guidelines were released last week, the College Board had removed or significantly reduced the presence of many of those concepts — like intersectionality, mass incarceration, reparations and the Black Lives Matter movement — though it said that political pressure played no role in the changes.

The specifics about the discussions, over the course of a year, were outlined in a Feb. 7 letter from the Florida Department of Education to the College Board.

The existence of the letter was first reported by The Daily Caller, a conservative news site. A copy of the letter was posted on Scribd. Its authenticity was verified by a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, which released a copy early Thursday.

The College Board responded to the letter with one of its own, released on Thursday, saying that Florida’s concerns had not influenced any revisions to the course, which had been shaped instead by feedback from educators.

“We provide states and departments of Education across the country with the information they request for inclusion of courses within their systems,” the letter said, adding, “We need to clarify that no topics were removed because they lacked educational value. We believe all the topics listed in your letter have substantial educational value.”

The discussions between the College Board and the state took place as right-wing activists across the country were increasingly taking aim at school lessons that emphasize race and racism in America. Governor DeSantis, who has presidential ambitions, has cast himself as the voice of parents who are fed up with what he has called “woke indoctrination” from progressive educators.


But Matthew Guterl, a professor of Africana and American studies at Brown University, raised concern about the course’s content as well as the College Board’s apparent effort to placate conservative states.

“With key concepts and thinkers now sidelined, the new curriculum lacks the intellectual heft and moral urgency that students in Florida — and students everywhere — need and deserve,” Dr. Guterl wrote in an email to The New York Times on Thursday. “Just as disturbingly, the College Board’s weak-kneed appeasement heralds an age of even stricter state control of truth, knowledge and education. This cannot go unchallenged.”

Joshua M. Myers, a professor of Africana studies at Howard University who served on the course’s 2021 writing team, also criticized the course’s final version as a nod to political forces.

“I think these changes are convenient,” Dr. Myers said in a statement last week to The Hilltop, Howard’s student newspaper. “They align with the College Board’s mission, which is to make the course salable. But do they align with the mission of Black studies? I don’t think so.”

Read entire article at New York Times