Over the past weekend, the Arkansas Department of Education alerted school districts across the state that offer Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies that the course will no longer be recognized and that students who complete it will not receive high school credit receive.
The course is a pilot program currently being offered in several counties across the country with hopes of expanding it over the next few years. Such pilot programs are not uncommon, as they allow the College Board, the company that administers AP courses, to refine the courses before rolling them out statewide. More than 200 colleges and universities have committed to recognizing the high school course as an academic achievement.
However, due to its pilot status, the state could not approve it, officials claimedas it allegedly violates a recently passed state law and an executive order by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) banning the teaching of subjects allegedly encouraging implicit bias.
It is unclear how the state Department of Education concluded that the course would reinforce such prejudice. The LEARNS Act, which became state law in March, also bans critical racial theory classes, which conservatives have used as a bogeyman in recent years to falsely claim that teaching American history from non-white perspectives is somehow harmful to children be. The act also bans classes “that would indoctrinate students with ideologies” Again, the AP coursework has not been proven to cause this.
“Arkansas law contains provisions on prohibited subjects. Without clarity, we cannot approve a pilot project that could inadvertently put a teacher at risk of violating Arkansas law.” a statement Kimberly Mundell, communications director for the Arkansas Department of Education, read.
AP courses are designed to provide high school students with college-level coursework and earn them both high school and college or university credits.
The announcement came over the weekend as classrooms across the state prepared to start the AP class on Monday. This was announced by the Little Rock School DistrictIn response to the state’s actions, it says “explor[ing] Options that students can fully benefit from [the] “Course”, but still thinking about what to do next.
Emails were sent on Saturday morning to the counties, warning them that the course would not count toward students’ high school credits and that it would be removed from the state’s course offerings.
Jim Ross, a public education observer, noted that AP European History continues to be offered in the state, and described the abolition of the history course for black Americans as “simple racism”.
The Arkansas actions somewhat mirror similar actions by the Florida Department of Education, which stated that it would not allow the AP African American Studies pilot program to be offered in that state. The course, the department announced in January“inexplicably violates Florida law and severely lacks educational value.”
In response, the College Board adjusted the course to conform with Florida law restricting the teaching of Black American history. However, the company later admitted that complying with the DeSantis government’s demands was a mistake without recoil.
“There is always debate about the content of a new AP course. This is good and healthy; these courses are important,” the college board said in February. “But the dialogue surrounding AP African American Studies has gone from healthy debate to misinformation.”
“Our failure to raise our voices has betrayed black scientists everywhere and those who have worked long to build this remarkable field,” the College Board added.