ETHS teacher who shaped AP African American Studies discusses threats to curriculum


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

An Evanston Township High School teacher who shaped AP African American Studies discussed threats to the curriculum.

Sonya Dymova, Reporter

The Evanston Township High School District 202 Board of Education spoke Monday about the College Board’s changes to the Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum after Florida’s Department of Education rejected the course last month.

ETHS History and Social Science teacher Kamasi Hill took part in shaping the course as part of the AP’s Development Committee, and ETHS became one of 60 high schools teaching the course on a pilot basis this academic year. At the meeting, Hill addressed the recent changes to the curriculum.

“(Florida) Governor (Ron) DeSantis and other state legislators who object to the teaching of African American Studies — it’s just another chapter of the long struggle … to make the history and the culture of African Americans valid and visible,” Hill said. 

The Florida Department of Education rejected the African American studies curriculum Jan. 19, saying it lacked educational value. On Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, the Advanced Placement Program released the finalized framework for the course.

The updated framework marks topics criticized by DeSantis as optional, when the leaked draft had required those subjects. Among the newly optional units are discussions of Black Lives Matter; gay life and expression in Black communities; intersectionality and the dimensions of Black experiences; and movements led by Black women. 

Hill said, though these units are optional, students can still learn this content.

“It’s not hidden from them: They’ll have access to them right on the website, and teachers can use it as well in a classroom,” Hill said. “It’s just not a required component of the curriculum, because the students won’t be tested on it for the AP exam.”

In addition to the core curriculum, students taking the course are expected to spend three to four weeks writing a 1,200- to 1,500- word essay. For this assignment, students can focus on one of the optional topics, but may also choose a theme not listed in the document. 

District 202 board member Stephanie Teterycz said Hill’s statements helped assure her about the curriculum changes. 

“I was so outraged last week, I guess I got caught up with the media discussion about the College Board making changes or sort of conceding to political pressure,” she said. “I am glad to hear that that’s sort of overstated, or overblown, or misrepresented.”

D202 board Vice President Monique Parsons said she was aware of the problems with leaving certain topics optional.

However, she also emphasized the importance and historical significance of the course. 

“If we can do this and be a part of this … we can do anything, and this is just a testament of how strong and how bold ETHS is,” Parsons said. “Of course, we are not Florida.” 

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