FHS To Participate In Controversial AP African American Studies Pilot Program

Franklin Township High School will be one of 26 schools in New Jersey to offer Advanced Placement African American studies, starting in the 2023-2024 school year.

The course, created by the College Board, is currently being taught in one New Jersey school and 60 schools across the country. The course is in its first year of a two-year pilot program.

The Board of Education last December approved the course and applied to the state to participate in the pilot program’s second year.

Gov. Phil Murphy in February announced that 26 New Jersey schools would participate in the pilot’s second year.

Speaking about the course at the school board’s Finance Committee’s open budget hearing on March 9, schools Superintendent John Ravally said that a minimum of 20 students was needed to run the course, “and by the way, we already have 58 students signed up.”

Ravally said the course will have several sections.

Advanced placement courses allow students to earn college credits while still in high school.

The course “is an interdisciplinary course that draws from a variety of fields—history, literature, the arts, geography, science—to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans,” according to the College Board web site.

“To develop this course framework, the AP Program consulted with more than 300 professors of African American Studies from more than 200 colleges nationwide, including dozens of historically Black colleges and universities, along with dedicated high school teachers across the country,” according to the web site. “The course focuses on the topics where professors shared a strong consensus on the essential events, experiences, and individuals crucial to a study of African American history and culture.”

More than 200 colleges around the country have committed to accepting the course’s credits, according to the College Board.

Hundreds of schools across the country will participate in the pilot program’s second year, according to the College Board. The course will be available to all schools in the 2024-25 school year.

The course has become a flashpoint among Conservatives, most notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Murphy, in his press release about the expansion of the program in New Jersey, took aim at DeSantis’ comments.

“As governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis prioritize political culture wars ahead of academic success, New Jersey will proudly teach our kids that Black History is American History,” Murphy said in the release. “While the DeSantis Administration stated that AP African American Studies ‘significantly lacks educational value’, New Jersey will stand on the side of teaching our full history.”

“We will set an example for the nation by demonstrating to our future leaders that our country is the greatest in the world because it is a work in progress, a promise, and an ideal we strive to achieve,” he said in the release. Critics have charged that the College Board “watered down” the course to meet objections posed by opponents such as DeSantis, but the College Board denies there was any outside influence in its decision-making.

“No states or districts have seen the official framework that is released, much less provided feedback on it,” the College Board says on its web site. “This course has been shaped only by the input of experts and long-standing AP principles and practices.”

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