It’s another win for conservatives after Arkansas high school schoolers enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) African American history courses were just informed that they would not receive “AP credit for their work.”
The devastating news was delivered on Friday, “just two days before the first bell of the school year was set to ring in Arkansas high schools planning to offer the class.”
The state department of education issued the warning, citing the recently passed omnibus education bill, the LEARNS Act, which Republican Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed into law earlier this year. Sanders described it as “the largest overhaul of the state’s education system in Arkansas history.”
Kimberly Mundell, director of communications for the state education department said, “Arkansas law contains provisions regarding prohibited topics,” adding, “Without clarity, we cannot approve a pilot that may unintentionally put a teacher at risk of violating Arkansas law.”
Upon a close read of the language, the LEARNS Act essentially codified Governor Sanders’ Critical Race Theory (CRT) executive order into law.
Under the new statute, the Arkansas Department of Education is now required “to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as Critical Race Theory, otherwise known as ‘CRT’, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.”
Of note, the statute does not explicitly define or specify exactly what CRT is, and its other mention includes the following language: “The secretary shall ensure that no public school employee or 34 public school student shall be required to attend trainings or orientations based on prohibited indoctrination or Critical Race Theory.”
And even though there is no formal definition, state education officials have tried to allege that teaching African American studies is akin to teaching implicit bias, and would therefore be violating the state’s law.
“The full impact of the state’s move is still unclear,” the Arkansas Times reports. Supposedly, teachers were “told they could still offer the class, but the state will not recognize it on the same level as other AP courses.”
Bizarrely enough, these calls bypassed principals as well as district staff, and the news came down the pipeline directly to teachers. The state followed up by sending emails on Saturday morning “to district curriculum administrators letting them know the course would not be recognized.”
Some critics worry this change will “make African American Studies less attractive for students competing for top class rankings, who often seek out AP classes for the extra bump they provide to their GPAs (taking AP classes can shoot high-performing students above a 4.0). It could also have a chilling effect on other schools that might have been considering offering the course in the future.”
Thus far, the state has not publicly commented; however, the College Board, the institution charged with overseeing AP courses as well as the SAT, issued a statement via spokesperson Holly Stepp, “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…College Board is committed to providing an unflinching encounter with the facts of African American history and culture, and rejects the notion that the AP African American Studies course is indoctrination in any form.”