College Board to Texas schools: Follow AP curriculum or lose AP status

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Naadiya Walji

An assortment of APUSH textbooks in APUSH teacher Nathan Wendt’s classroom.

Earlier this year, College Board announced Texas schools could lose their AP Status if they do not rigorously  follow the AP curriculum. The announcement came following concerns that recent  Texas state legislation restricting the teaching of race and other topics conflict with the College Board curriculum. 

In the announcement, College Board stated: “AP opposes censorship. AP is animated by a deep respect for the intellectual freedom of teachers and students alike. If a school bans required topics from their AP courses, the AP Program removes the AP designation from that course and its inclusion in the AP Course Ledger provided to colleges and universities.”

Bills such as HB3979, relating to civics instruction to public school students and instruction policies in public schools, and SB3, relating to the social studies curriculum in public schools, were passed last year, restricting what teachers can teach. 

HB3979 states: “No teacher shall be compelled by a policy of any state agency, school district, campus, open-enrollment charter school, or school administration to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.”

To support educators in states where these bills are prohibiting the teaching of certain topics that were deemed by lawmakers as “divisive,” College Board is threatening to pull out from school districts that cut out parts of the College Board curriculum.

Recently, they told Florida that if they have to teach by the Florida standards, they’re not testing in Florida. The AP exams in Florida for particular subjects are just not going to be offered,” AP U.S. History teacher Nathan Wendt said. 

Additionally, College Board has provided additional resources to teachers in states with laws restricting teaching of certain topics.

My inbox is flooded with College Board offering me to go to this seminar,” Wendt said. “So they’re very proactive in trying to help teachers out, even in states that may have certain restrictions,” Wendt said. 

In the past, College Board has surveyed teachers about the topic of gerrymandering amid state legislative bills. 

“They were talking about keeping gerrymandering in the curriculum, but not having us develop it. Which I found a bit sore really not even touching on like not using the word,” AP Human Geography and AP Government teacher Charlotte Haney said.

 Haney is currently working with College Board on project-based curriculums. 

In classes such as AP Human Geography and AP U.S. History, teachers are forced by the Texas legislations to leave out topics labeled as “Critical Race Theory (CRT)” and to refrain from speaking fully of events such as slavery and conflict over indigenous land. However, teachers are required by the College Board Course Exam Description, or CED, to cover these topics.

“I find it really frustrating that we’re being asked not to teach the history of those things. Because actually, history is really important for understanding and if we don’t understand how history operates, then we just sort of fall back on these naive prejudices,” Haney said.

“Because we are human beings, what we do is we craft theories… When a student notices that one group is financially on the bottom, they’re going to look for explanations, they’re going to try to figure it out””

— Charlotte Haney

College Board states that it allows students to become independent thinkers and draw their own conclusions based on information that has been presented by the curriculums. 

“There is a lot of language used that is pretty racist and embedded with racist ideas. If students are just allowed to kind of fall back on kind of how they think the world works, based on those prejudices, then the theories that they’re going to develop to explain the differences that are happening between ethnic groups, people are going to rely on those sorts of racist tropes that we all grow up with,” said Haney. 

Because AP U.S. History focuses solely on the United States, it covers many of the topics that are deemed “divisive” by lawmakers. 

“I know that there’s a lot of emphasis on, I guess, kind of a more patriotic history with Texas, and it’s really kind of more about what specifically is included in Texas standards and curriculum versus what’s included in like, the APUSH curriculum,” Wendt said.

Another concern amongst the Texas GOP is whether or not parents are comfortable with current and past events being discussed in the classroom. 

“In general, we always approach things from a very academic standpoint and anything that we do in this class, we can back up with primary sources, because that’s really the most important part of this class or history classes… The fact of the matter is that you and I weren’t there,” Wendt said.

College Board has a set curriculum with certain standards that must be met, which includes analyzing perspectives that may be different from their own.

“When it comes to parents potentially expressing concern about that, I always try to refer them back to the College Board curriculum and standards. This is what colleges are expecting your kid to know, potentially if they do well on the exam,” Wendt said.