Watch CBS News

AP African American studies course does not belong in Florida schools, says DeSantis administration

The administration of Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has blocked the introduction of a new Advanced Placement course for high school students that focuses on African American studies. 

The College Board, which handles all AP courses, rolled out the pilot program this fall in 60 high schools across the U.S. It is unclear if any of those schools, which the board declined to name, were in Florida.

"In its current form, the College Board's AP African American Studies course lacks educational value and is contrary to Florida law," read a Jan. 12 letter to the College Board from the Florida Department of Education Office of Articulation. "In the future, should College Board be willing to come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content, FDOE will always be willing to reopen the discussion." 

The letter did not specify what about the program it deemed unlawful or inaccurate.

CRT Ban Protest California
Student Samaya Robinson, 17, holds a sign in protest of the districts ban of critical race theory curriculum at Great Oak High School in Temecula on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. Watchara Phomicinda/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

"Like all new AP courses, AP African American Studies is undergoing a rigorous, multi-year pilot phase, collecting feedback from teachers, students, scholars and policymakers," the College Board said in a statement to CBS News. "We look forward to bringing this rich and inspiring exploration of African-American history and culture to students across the country."

The AP program, which gives high school students an opportunity to take college-level courses before graduation, covers 38 subjects, including English literature and composition, U.S. government and politics, statistics and art history. 

The AP African American Studies course is the College Board's first new offering since 2014, according to TIME, and will cover more than 400 years of African American history. It had been in the works for over a decade before its initial pilot, and the curriculum will span several topics, including literature, political science and geography.

State Sen. Shevrin D. Jones, a Democrat, took to Twitter to enumerate the other AP courses offered in the state, which he says include "AP European History, AP Japanese Language & Culture, and A P German Language & Culture," among others. 

"It's crazy how AP African-American studies made the chopping block in FL," he said.

Previously, DeSantis has praised the presence of AP courses in Florida, and connected them with a net positive impact on education in the state. 

In his  State of the State address, DeSantis said, "Florida continues to make great strides in K–12 education," said DeSantis in 2021, and that "the College Board released data showing that Florida ranks No. 2 in the nation in the percentage of graduating seniors who have passed Advanced Placement exams." 

DeSantis also made headlines last year when he signed the "Stop WOKE Act," which prohibits the teaching of critical race theory in Florida schools. 

"In Florida, we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory," said DeSantis said in December. 

Stop WOKE Bill Florida
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reacts after signing HB 7, "Individual Freedom," also dubbed the "stop WOKE" bill, at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Florida, on Friday, April 22, 2022.  Miami Herald via Getty Images

"We won't allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other."

In 2021, CBS News found that there was no evidence critical race theory was being taught in K-12 schools, but that certain initiatives and programs are guided by its basic assumptions.

Henry-Louis Gates, Jr., one of the country's foremost experts on African American history who helped develop the AP African American Studies program, told TIME that the course specifically "is not CRT."

"It is a mainstream, rigorously vetted, academic approach to a vibrant field of study, one half a century old in the American academy, and much older, of course, in historically Black colleges and universities," he said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.