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High schools could lose AP course designations, teachers are torn over how to move forward

Empty classroom covid-19
Posted at 11:36 AM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 11:46:20-04

The struggle teachers have found themselves in over the course of the pandemic is well-documented as they have been the center of a COVID-19 tug-of-war over regulations in schools, but it is a new College Board regulation that has them in a similar position once more.

Earlier this month, the College Board, which manages Advanced Placement courses in high school, came out with a memo of principles that states if teachers do not teach required topics, the school where they teach could lose its Advanced Placement designation, and students that have completed AP courses there could lose the college credits gained from completion.

Some of those required topics could clash with state laws in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas, that have banned teaching “divisive topics” such as critical race theory.

“Teachers are under attack for doing their job right now,” said Scott Frank, an AP psychology and IB History of the Americas teacher in Brownsville, Texas.

Frank says he and other teachers in his school district feel conflicted when approaching certain topics that could put them in a precarious position.

“I’m at a crossroads between what do I do? What I was hired to do, which is teach AP United States History, or do I follow the letter of the law and avoid any controversy?” he said.

“What we’re hearing is that people are following the College Board and they’re going to teach AP with fidelity,” added Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union in the United States.

In December, the AFT partnered with local teachers in New Hampshire to sue the state over its law that banned “divisive concepts.” She says the AFT is prepared to stand behind more teachers who find themselves in similar positions.

“It is putting teachers in a terrible, terrible, terrible predicament and it’s one of the reasons that teachers are leaving,” said Weingarten.

We reached out to several school districts in Oklahoma and Texas, where critical race theory is banned, that declined to comment on how they plan to approach their AP courses, but according to Frank, it is not the teachers who stand to lose the most, but the students.

“I think ultimately, the fallout will be that student learning will suffer,” he said. “Those dialogues about contemporary events won’t be as dynamic and meaningful because, again, I think if things escalate and teachers self-censor, I think that’s ultimately where you’ll end up where it’ll just be a streamline of facts which is, in my opinion, the exact opposite of the course where you think deeply about the material.”