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Tension intensifies between College Board and Florida with clash over AP psychology course

Controversy over Florida rejecting AP class
Florida could face lawsuit over rejection of AP African American studies pilot program 05:27

The College Board dispute with Florida over Advanced Placement courses escalated on Thursday as the education nonprofit accused Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration of having "effectively banned" a high school psychology course.

The academic clash began when Florida in January blocked the introduction of a new AP course for high school students that focuses on African American studies, saying it lacked educational value and was contrary to state law. The class, which began as a pilot at 60 schools and will expand to 800 schools nationwide in the coming year, is still barred in Florida, according to
USA Today. The current controversy over AP psychology classes revolves around lessons on sexual orientation and identity. 

The College Board said on Thursday going forward, any classes labeled as AP Psychology in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements.  "Therefore, we advise Florida districts not to offer AP Psychology until Florida reverses their decision and allows parents and students to choose to take the full course."

Florida's Department of Education responded that the College Board is trying to force school districts to "prevent students from taking the AP Psychology Course" just one week before the start of school.

"The Department didn't 'ban' the course. The course remains listed in Florida's Course Code Directory for the 2023-24 school year," a department spokesperson told CBS News. "We encourage the College Board to stop playing games with Florida students and continue to offer the course and allow teachers to operate accordingly. The other advanced course providers (including the International Baccalaureate program) had no issue providing the college credit psychology course."

The state's controversial Parental Rights in Education Act, widely known as the "Don't Say Gay" law, prohibits classroom discussion or instruction on sexual orientation and identity in kindergarten to third grade or in older grades in "a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate."

In a May letter to the College Board, Florida's Department of Education Office of Articulation asked the organization "to immediately conduct a thorough review of all College Board courses (Advanced Placement and Pre-Advanced Placement) and inform the Office of Articulation, by June 16, 2023, whether these courses need modification to ensure compliance. Some courses may contain content or topics prohibited by State Board of Education rule and Florida law."

The College Board would not modify the course.

"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 careers in the discipline," the organization wrote in a letter to Florida officials. "The learning objective within AP Psychology that covers gender and sexual orientation has specifically been raised by some Florida districts relative to these recent regulations. 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 American Psychological Association has backed the College Board's decision. In a June statement, APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr. said understanding human sexuality is a fundamental part of psychology. 

"Educators cannot teach psychology and exclude an entire group of people from the curriculum," Evans said, referring to
LGBTQ+ individuals.  

The AP course in psychology asks students to "describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development," which the College Board said has been part of the curriculum since the course was launched 30 years ago. 

More than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology in the 2022-23 academic year, according to the College Board. Tens of thousands of students will be impacted in the upcoming academic year. 

"The AP Program will do all we can do to support schools in their plans for responding to this late change," the College Board said. 

Education in Florida has also been impacted by the "Stop WOKE Act," which prohibits the teaching of critical race theory in Florida schools. In February, DeSantis characterized the AP African American course's proposed syllabus as "indoctrination that runs afoul of our standards."

"Why don't we just do and teach the things that matter? Why is it always someone has to try and jam their agenda down our throats," he said at the time.

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