Arkansas Stops Offering High School Credit for AP African American Studies

Bill Pan
By Bill Pan
August 15, 2023USshare
Arkansas Stops Offering High School Credit for AP African American Studies
The Arkansas State Flag and U.S. flag fly in front of the State Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on Dec. 1, 2022. (Janice Hisle/The Epoch Times)

The College Board’s pilot Advanced Placement (AP) course on African American studies won’t be offered for high school students in Arkansas, the state’s education department has confirmed.

The decision to remove the course from the state’s roster of offerings was shared with high school teachers on Aug. 11, the Friday just before the start of the 2023–24 school year, the Arkansas Times reported.

The move means that AP African American studies will no longer count for credit toward high school graduation. It also means the state will no longer cover the $90 testing cost for students who complete the course through teachers who insist to teach it.

“The AP African American Studies pilot course is not a history course and is a pilot that is still undergoing major revisions,” Alexa Henning, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Education, said in a statement, noting that the course may contain topics prohibited by the state’s education law.

In January, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued an executive order prohibiting leftist race indoctrination in K-12 schools. The order denounces “segregationist” critical race theories that “emphasize skin color as a person’s primary characteristic,” and directs the state’s education secretary to review rules, policies, and regulations that might encourage students to discriminate against someone based on race.

“Without clarity, we cannot approve a pilot that may unintentionally put a teacher at risk of violating Arkansas law,” Mr. Henning said. He emphasized that the pilot “does not comply with the rules of the department’s AP program like other vetted courses,” such as AP European history, AP U.S. history, and AP world history.

“The state cannot give AP credit for a course that has not yet been finalized,” the official said. “Once the pilot is completed and AP releases the final course, ADE will review the final submission at that time.”

“The department encourages the teaching of all American history and supports rigorous courses not based on opinions or indoctrination.”

According to the College Board, the company that develops AP courses and administers the AP tests, six schools in Arkansas were expected to offer the course this school year. Among them was Little Rock Central High School, which is mentioned in the course with a discussion of the nine black students who famously attempted to enter the racially segregated school in 1957.

“On this first day of school, we share in their surprise, confusion, and disappointment at this new guidance that the course won’t count toward graduation credits or weighted the same as other AP courses offered in the state,” the College Board said in a statement.

The College Board began developing the AP African American Studies course in 2020, amid nationwide unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd. The course is now in its second pilot phase, with more than 700 schools across the nation participating.

The class was originally designed to cover topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement, queer and intersectionality theories, slavery reparations, as well as the works of critical race scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw and Black Panther communist Angela Davis. These topics have been omitted in the latest version of course framework released this February.

This major revision has been criticized by progressive activists as caving to political pressure from Republican-led states that imposed bans or restrictions on the teaching of “divisive concepts” in public schools. The College Board insisted that these changes have nothing to do with the political climate, although documents revealed that Florida’s education officials have been in contact with the company over the aspects of the course the state opposed.

In Florida, a new K-12 African American history guideline instructs students to examine “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” The standards recently drew criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), although the curriculum explicitly states that the goal is to showcase “strength, courage and resiliency” of black Americans under oppression, not to endorse the institution of slavery.

Proponents of the Florida curriculum pointed to the College Board’s 2023 AP African American Studies course, which includes a lesson about former slaves supporting themselves in post-Civil War America using “specialized trades” they learned while being enslaved.

“In addition to agricultural work, enslaved people learned specialized trades and worked as painters, carpenters, tailors, musicians, and healers in the North and South. Once free, African Americans used these skills to provide for themselves and others,” the course framework states.

From The Epoch Times

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