The College Board, during its battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis about whether the proposed AP African American Studies course would be allowed in Florida classrooms, seemed to be moderating the radical first draft. It remained a Studies course, and therefore essentially committed to radical political activism rather than to inquiry into truth, but at least it had removed some of the more obvious politicization.
Now the College Board, as it loses hope that it will be able to convince Florida that its softened radicalism does not violate the Stop WOKE Act, appears to be backtracking on its moderation. The College Board ambiguously hints that it will return to its old radicalism—details to come.
The NAS will keep an eye on what the College Board proposes, but the College Board has a long history of substituting radical propaganda for history education. We expect it to continue—and we expect that AP African American Studies will only be the first of a series of College Board AP examinations in political activist “studies” courses. The College Board will use its monopoly power over advanced placement examinations as a wedge to distort K-12 social studies education even further, by deepening it subordination to radical political activism. The other 49 states would be well advised to join Florida in freeing themselves from their reliance on the College Board.
Florida, which continues to lead the nation in thoughtful education reform, simultaneously has begun work to free itself from its reliance on the College Board: “During budget negotiations this week, the Legislature agreed to spend a combined $2.8 million developing a homegrown program to rival the rigorous and nationally recognized AP courses students can take for college credit.” The NAS applauds Florida’s initiative and urges reform policymakers in other states to imitate Florida’s work.
We also wish to provide suggestions for the Florida Department of Education (FDE), which we believe will help them to carry out this reform.
- Florida already possesses an extensive dual enrollment system, which allows qualified high school students to receive college credit for courses taken in home school, in high school, or in college. This dual enrollment system already provides a good alternate to College Board AP classes. We suggest that the FDE should build upon this existing system as it creates alternatives to AP courses.
- The FDE should make a priority of developing AP-substitute courses that satisfy its public universities’ undergraduate General Education Requirements (GERs). Radical faculty can use these GERs to impose activist propaganda on students, so Florida should make it possible for its students to avoid having to take these GERs in college. (Indeed, Florida policymakers should also limit the Florida universities’ ability to impose their own GERs on students: the University of Florida, for example, now imposes radicalizing “Diversity” and “International” requirements on students, besides subterfuges such as allowing courses such as “Black Horror and Social Justice” to satisfy the Writing Requirement GER.) Florida should make an especial priority of developing AP-substitute courses for history, civics, and English, since these have been most susceptible to politicization, and because they are most necessary to learn about America’s ideals and institutions of liberty.
- The FDE should work to create a stable framework for its AP-substitute courses that will allow it to create a consistent body of assessment questions over several years. Consistent questions allow for reliable year-to-year comparisons and for informed revision of assessment questions. The College Board’s restless changes to its course structure has degraded its own test question stability, and its own ability to provide these basic services. The FDE should create this consistent body of assessment questions both to improve its own work and to provide other states the solid technical information that will encourage them to undertake similar reforms.
- The FDE should start work to assemble a body of essay readers who can provide rigorous assessment of students’ essay writing skills in the assessments of AP-substitute courses. Since the FDE will need to provide qualifications and training courses for these essay readers, it should start work on this aspect of the reform at once. These essay readers should not be confined to public school teachers, but should include teachers from charter schools and private schools, as well as home school educators. This aspect of Florida’s initiative is vital, since the ability to write college-level expository prose is the most fundamental qualification for undergraduate education.
- The FDE should frame their reforms so that they can be adopted by other states, and to make possible mutual recognition of AP-substitute courses by all states who have removed themselves from the College Board system. The College Board’s great advantage is that it provides college credit for any college in the nation; Florida and other education reformers should work to make sure that its high-school graduates will have the same ability to apply their college credits throughout the United States.
We give this advice to Florida with a sense of urgency, because the College Board gives every sign of intensifying its radical commitments. Education reformers in Florida and in other states must ask now, to rescue their students and their schools from the College Board’s community organization tactics disguised as curriculum.