College Board Creates Advanced Placement Curriculum on African Diaspora for High School Students

Years in the making, the influential College Board is launching an ambitious national curriculum on race with an Advanced Placement (AP) program on the African diaspora, the Washington Post reports.

Given AP’s current importance on high school transcripts and influence on college admissions, the program has the potential to make Black studies a college-prep offering in coming years.

Black students’ scores on AP tests in recent years have remained significantly lower than those for other groups. In 2019, Black students passed 32 percent of the AP exams they took, compared with 44 percent for Latino students, 65 percent for White students and 72 percent for Asian students.

The College Board collaborated on the project with African Diaspora Consortium a not-for-profit organization, as well as Columbia University’s Teachers College. To quote the article:

Its release follows a three-year pilot program in 11 public schools with widely varying racial demographics — urban schools enrolling mostly students of color in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami, as well as predominantly White schools in suburban communities such as Norman, Okla., and Huntsville, Ala. Each school partners with a mentoring university.

This effort could not be more timely, according to Ernest Morrell, a professor of Africana studies at the University of Notre Dame who co-chairs the AP committee that oversees the curriculum. “I think there is going to be a convergence between the work we are doing and the larger universe demanding some form of racial justice,” he said.

The curriculum, which covers people of African descent who were dispersed globally through the slave trade and other historic movements, aims to help answer two key questions about educational equity and diversity. Can a widely available college-level curriculum on the Black experience boost Black students to greater academic success in AP programs, where they are historically underrepresented? And can other students, whether White, Latino or Asian, deepen their personal racial awareness by studying an Africana curriculum?

The focus extends geographically and conceptually beyond a traditional introductory African American studies course, instead featuring a global and cross-discipline orientation. For example, a student might trace the diverse roots of the actors in the groundbreaking movie “Black Panther” — whose heritage links to Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and other countries — or conduct independent research comparing the variations in a visual art motif seen in Ghana, Haiti and Louisiana.

Instead of creating a new Advanced Placement subject course, the College Board has tied the diaspora curriculum to its skills-based Capstone program, which debuted in 2014.

Through Capstone, students are allowed to earn AP credit through research projects conducted independently, long-length essays and oral and visual presentations on current issues. Capstone participants also take a year-end standardized skills-based exam.

More than 300 colleges and universities grant course credit to students who earn passing Capstone scores, which is the equivalent of earning course credit for passing an AP exam.

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