Northwest to Pioneer Groundbreaking AP History Course


A description of the new AP African American Studies course on the College Board’s website. Credit courtesy of the College Board

Jocelyn R. Silverstein, Reporter

Northwest High School is among a relatively small number of public American high schools selected to test a new advanced placement (AP) history course that has grabbed the attention of the public — and riled up politicians at the highest level.

This fall, Northwest will begin offering AP African American Studies, a course that has been in the development stage for over a decade. This class, which is among the newest AP offerings from the College Board, will explore “the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans,” the organization said.

“It opens the door for us all to really delve into what makes African American history so rich,” said Ms. Tara Dee-Henry, an assistant principal at Northwest.

According to the College Board, which administers all of the AP exams across multiple subjects, the new course will be trialed in the 2023-2024 academic year at hundreds of high schools across the nation, including Northwest. There are about 24,000 public high schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report.

This school year, AP African American Studies was tested at 60 high schools. All high schools nationwide will have the option to offer the program starting in the 2024-2025 school year.

The course has recently been thrust into the spotlight because some politicians and other critics believe it concentrates too much on high-profile societal issues like racism and police brutality. Meanwhile, people on the other side of the political spectrum think that the concepts seen as crucial to understanding the field of African American studies have been weakened, The New York Times reported.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in January that the curriculum “significantly lacks educational value” and banned Florida public high schools from offering it, Politico reported.

The College Board responded to DeSantis in February, acknowledging it made mistakes in rolling out the course but defending the class and saying Florida officials had twisted the facts.

We have made the mistake of treating FDOE with the courtesy we always accord to an education agency, but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda,” the College Board said in a statement in its online newsroom, referring to the Florida Department of Education.

In an interview with the JagWire, Mr. Jonathan Gordon, the head social studies teacher at Northwest, said he thought Northwest students will be pleased about Northwest offering AP African American studies. Northwest currently offers 25 AP classes, according to the school’s website.

“We think it’s a course that our students will be excited to take,” Gordon said. “And so when Montgomery County reached out to us as being a potential school that could offer it, we took that opportunity to do so.”

Gordon said that Mr. Elijah Barr, who teaches an African American history elective at Northwest, will likely teach AP African American Studies.

Mr. David Parks, an AP U.S. History teacher at Northwest, said the class will give students an opportunity to learn more about the positive and negative aspects of the African American experience.

“It’s the first time an AP course has been created to represent the history of a specific racial or ethnic group in American [and world] history,” Parks said in an email, adding that he thinks the course is valuable to the school because it goes in-depth about a portion of American history that social studies courses typically don’t spend enough time on.