NEW YORK — The College Board is backtracking after stepping on another public relations landmine.
On Thursday, the College Board reposted a statement originally published February 1 after a news article claimed the organization had “scrubbed” its website to “cover up deceptions about AP African American Studies course.” The original statement blasted a New York Times report that argued Florida’s rejection of the course impacted the College Board’s revisions to the syllabus.
The statement was removed from the College Board website, a Popular Information story revealed on Thursday morning. Hours after the article was published, the College Board reposted the original statement with the following explanation:
“This content was originally posted on February 1, 2023, in response to that morning's New York Times story. We later took it down, which has driven speculation about why we did so. The reason is that there’s been subsequent coverage from The New York Times about AP African American Studies, and we didn’t want to create confusion about which story the response was in reference to.”
Judd Legum, who authored the Popular Information report, offered his thoughts on the explanation.
“It's unlikely that anyone would believe a February 1 statement is responding to a piece published 12 days later,” he wrote in his article. “Asked directly if it stood by the contents of its February 1 statement, the College Board did not respond.”
Legum, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer, doesn’t believe the College Board has been honest about the influence Florida’s rejection had on removing many of the most controversial elements of the course.
“The public is supposed to believe that it is a coincidence that the revisions to the curriculum tracked the complaints from the DeSantis administration and others on the right,” he wrote. “Especially in light of the new preamble to the course added by the College Board, which states that the AP ‘opposes indoctrination,’ — parroting Florida's STOP Woke Act. This is not a credible claim.”
BACK AND FORTH
The quick pivot from the College Board is the latest move in a weeks-long damage control effort that has drawn criticism from conservatives and progressives alike. The College Board admitted to making “mistakes in the rollout” of the course and confessed a “failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field.” At the same time, the College Board accused the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) of “attempting to claim a political victory.”
College Board CEO David Coleman denied that the state’s feedback influenced the course revisions and told PBS on February 1 that the curriculum changes were “based only on two sources, the feedback from professors and students and teachers in the pilot course.”
On February 7, FDOE issued a letter hinting at the same conclusion Legum draws – namely that the timing suggests a political victory is exactly what the state achieved. The letter stated, “By no coincidence, we were grateful to see that the College Board’s revised February 1, 2023, framework removed 19 topics, many of which FDOE cited as conflicting with Florida law, including discriminatory and historically fictional topics.”
On Monday, DeSantis said he and House Speaker Paul Renner have begun “reevaluating” the state’s relationship with the College Board.