At one of Miami’s prestigious magnet schools, some students and teachers are strongly objecting to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ idea to switch vendors for college Advanced Placement tests, fearing consequences for their budding academic careers.
“This could take away possible college credit I could have earned,” said MAST Academy 10th grader Rebecca Leitman, who is enrolled in AP World History and AP European History. “ “It concerns me that Ron Desantis wants to replace AP classes in Florida with another education “vendor” because this could affect my academic future.
One of her teachers, Bryan Mcfarland, said the governor’s idea would wind up hurting students.
“MAST, and all public schools in Miami Dade county, would be at a disadvantage nationally if he follows through with his threat.”
The AP courses are popular at MAST, where students can choose from 19 different offererings. Some 96% of students take at least one AP course in their senior year, according to U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the marine and science focused school on Virginia Key off Miami’s coast.
DeSantis’ idea comes as an escalation of a dispute with the College Board, the organization that administers the AP tests. It arose after Florida announced it was rejecting the Board’s African American history course, saying it violated state law and was historically inaccurate.
The College Board released a revised curriculum downplaying some components that had drawn criticism, a move that drew the ire of scholars and advocates on the left. The organization has since maintained that the changes were substantially complete before DeSantis made his objections.
The spat continued when the board issued a set of statements days apart that heavily criticized the DeSantis administration and apologized for not taking a stronger stance. The board has also said it is still awaiting clarification on exactly how the course violates Florida law.
Earlier this week, the governor broadened his attack at a news conference.
“So this College Board, nobody elected them to anything. They’re just kind of there and provide this service, and you can utilize those services or not,” Desantis said at a press conference Feb. 13. “There are probably some other vendors able to do their job as good and maybe a lot better.”
Not so, according to a small group of students asked about the governor’s idea.
“Abrupt changes of replacing AP classes could take students time to adjust which could interrupt their academic journey. AP classes have been around for a long time , and there are plenty of resources online that students can use to help them,” Leitman said. “This new education vendor may not have the same resources available to students online.”
McFarland, the history teacher at MAST, said removing the courses would be a disservice to students in terms of academic rigor and the possibility of saving on tuition by having some college credit already completed.
“College Board is the gold standard in providing high achieving students with an academically challenging curriculum,” he said.
Wednesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton led a march to the Florida Capitol to protest DeSantis’ rejection of a high school African American history course, accusing the Republican of censoring a fundamental chapter of the nation’s past.
The civil rights leader walked through Tallahassee to the Statehouse with dozens of supporters who criticized the state’s blocking of the Advanced Placement pilot course.
“Our children need to know the whole story. Not to not only know how bad you were, but to know how strong they are,” Sharpton told the crowd, adding, “If you would study history, governor, you would have known to mess with us and education always ends in your defeat.”
The rejection of the course has drawn national attention and led Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to announce that his state would expand the pilot course from one school to 26.
Like other Republicans and potential presidential candidates, DeSantis has taken an aggressive stance on education policy and moved to increase government control over what is taught in the classroom.
Over the last year, he has signed a law critics call “ Don’t Say Gay,” which bars lessons on sexual orientation or gender identity through the third grade as well as instruction deemed inappropriate, and also has approved what is known as the Stop WOKE Act, to restrict certain race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses.
More recently the governor announced plans to block state colleges from having programs on diversity, equity and inclusion, and critical race theory.
He has also moved to reshape the once progressive New College of Florida, appointing six new trustees who are tasked with transforming it into a classical liberal arts school modeled after conservative favorite Hillsdale College in Michigan.
Florida is weeks away from its regular legislative session, in which a Republican supermajority stands ready to deliver on the governor’s conservative agenda. DeSantis is expected to use the session to stack up political victories that will form the platform for his potential 2024 presidential bid.
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EDITORS’ NOTE: This story is part of the KBI’s journalism outreach program at MAST Academy. The Associated Press contributed to this story.