Six Arkansas schools to offer African American AP course despite restrictions | Arkansas

The six Arkansas schools that planned to offer an Advanced Placement (AP) course on African American studies say they will continue to do so despite state officials saying the class will not count toward a student’s graduation credit.The North Little Rock and Jacksonville North Pulaski school districts and eStem charter schools said on Thursday they would offer the course as a “local elective” despite the Arkansas education department saying it is not considered a state-approved course. They join two other school districts that have said they will continue offering the class.Education officials have said the class could not be part of the state’s advanced placement course offerings because it is still a pilot program and has not been vetted by the state yet to determine whether it complies with a law placing restrictions on how race is taught in the classroom.The state, however, has said that schools can still offer the course and it can count toward a student’s grade-point average.“District leaders believe that the AP African American Studies course will be a valuable addition to the district’s curriculum, and will help our young people understand and appreciate the rich diversity of our society,” the Jacksonville North Pulaski superintendent, Jeremy S Owoh, said in a statement.Arkansas and other Republican-led states have placed restrictions on how race is taught in the classroom, including prohibitions on critical race theory.The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, earlier this year blocked high schools in his state from teaching the AP African American studies course.The Little Rock school district on Wednesday said it planned to continue teaching the course at Central high, site of the historic 1957 racial desegregation crisis. Central is one of six schools in the state that had been slated to offer the course this year. The Jonesboro school district told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette it also planned to continue offering the course.The website of the College Board, the non-profit organization which oversees AP courses, describes the course as interdisciplinary, touching on literature, arts, humanities, political science, geography and science. The pilot program debuted last school year at 60 schools across the country, and it was set to expand to more this year.The Little Rock school district has said it will ensure students in the class don’t have to pay the AP exam fee, and eStem said it will cover the exam cost. Because it is not state approved, Arkansas will not pay for the AP exam like it does other advanced placement courses. North Little Rock has said it is considering options to cover the costs of the exam.In addition, eStem said students who pass the course and take the exam will be awarded a medal of historical pursuit and valor that can be worn as part of graduation regalia.The state told districts last week that the course would not count toward graduation credit, days before the start of school for most students. The state has said students could still earn high school graduation credit through an African American history course the state offers, though it is not advanced placement.

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