The College Board will once again alter its AP African American Studies course, after a months-long controversy over previous changes it made amid the spread of state laws restricting curriculum around race and ethnicity.
"In embarking on this effort, access was our driving principle — both access to a discipline that has not been widely available to high school students, and access for as many of those students as possible," the organization said in a statement announcing the decision Monday. "Regrettably, along the way those dual access goals have come into conflict."
The changes to the course, which come after a pilot period this school year in which 60 schools tested it, "will ensure that those students who do take this course will get the most holistic possible introduction to African American Studies," College Board added.
However, the College Board did not specify what changes are in the pipeline, other than saying it will be "a representative introductory college-level course." The changes are expected to be developed in the next few months.
The announcement comes after a high-profile tiff with the Florida Department of Education, and after other states said they were reviewing the course for state law violations. The Florida State Board of Education claimed the College Board’s decision to eliminate key topics on Black history, movements and identities resulted from the state rejecting its original framework on the grounds it lacked educational value and conflicted with the state's "anti-critical race theory" law.
The College Board denied such claims at the time, calling its revision process "a standard part of any new AP course" and saying "frameworks often change significantly as a result." It also expedited the release of the updated framework to February of this year from spring of 2024.
That final framework — which is now being revised once again — stripped key skills included in the original proposal and no longer included topics like “Black Identities,” “Art, Literature and Music,” “Black Feminist Movement, Womanism, and Intersectionality,” and “Black Lives Today,” all of which were listed as instructional focuses under the initial proposed framework. It also made topics like reparations and intersectionality "optional" as "sample project topics" that are "illustrative only." The original proposal had required those topics for the course.
Despite these changes, College Board CEO David Coleman said at the time that the updated course "is an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture.” He added that “no one is excluded from this course,” and that “everybody is seen.”
Now,however, the College Board is saying the upcoming changes "will ensure that those students who do take this course will get the most holistic possible introduction to African American Studies."
"Regardless of how many students take this course, each one of those students should have access to the full breadth and beauty of this discipline," the College Board said.
After the first pilot, the course is expected to expand to 800 schools in the coming school year. College Board previously planned to expand the course’s availability in the 2023-24 school year and most recently slated the course to be available to all interested high schools starting in 2024-25.