School Zone: What to Know About the AP African American Studies Pilot Course


In this week’s school zone, we’re looking at a pilot Advanced Placement African American Studies course.

Welcome to the School Zone, WTOP’s weekly feature on the latest education topics and trends in the DC region.

AP Program Launches Pilot Course in African American Studies

What it is: High school students across the United States could soon take an advanced-level African-American studies course.

The subject is the latest potential offering from the College Board, which oversees the AP program that allows students to receive college credit for taking an advanced course and passing a high school exam. It will be launched as a two-year pilot program for the class.

This week, nearly 60 educators attended a four-day seminar at Howard University in DC to discuss course concepts and teaching best practices. The university said it remains committed to “attracting black and Latino high school teachers” to its advanced placement summer institute to help increase diversity among PA teachers.

What this means: During the pilot phase, the program will seek feedback from students and teachers, determine course materials to be used, and strive to engage with African American communities.

In order to teach AP classes, teachers are required to attend summer seminars to learn about curriculum and teaching strategies. Howard is the only HBCU to host a summer institute.

Regional overview: The African American Studies AP course will be offered in 60 high schools across the United States in the first year of the pilot.

In the second year, students from more than 200 schools will have the opportunity to take the course.

The pilot program, Howard University said, comes after the AP program expressed interest in offering an African American studies course for more than a decade.

Talking points: Dawn Williams, dean of the Howard University School of Education, told OMCP that the school was involved in developing the curriculum for the pilot course. She said it took years to plan exactly what the course would include.

Williams said that in her view the course shouldn’t start with slavery, but rather “it’s a curriculum that is comprehensive, that talks about values ​​and contributions, struggles and obstacles, but about resilience of the African-American people”. and more collectively, the African American experience, which includes a variety of voices and perspectives.

The course will likely include historical figures in addition to more modern examples of contributions to literature, music and the arts.

Teachers who attended the workshop in DC this week heard from several speakers, toured the campus and walked through “a curriculum that has been vetted for years by experts in the field,” Williams said.

DC-area school systems grapple with teacher quits

DC-area school systems are seeing an increase in teacher quits as they return to the classroom after months of virtual learning.

In Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest school system, nearly 900 teachers quit this year, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. That’s about 200 more than in 2021.

At a school board work session this week, board member Karl Frisch said the sales pitch around teaching as a career needs to change.

“We’re talking about (how) we can’t pay you what you deserve, you’ll kind of be respected – depending on who you talk to. It won’t be easy, but you’re going to love the kids, right? It’s not really a sales pitch. We are working as a school system to address these issues,” Frisch said.

At the same meeting, board member Melanie Meren said, “The job market is tough. We’ve all been through a pandemic, people are tired and the public (education) has taken a beating. »

Several other jurisdictions have seen a similar trend.

In DC, from January 2022 to early July, 372 teachers resigned. Between January 2021 and June 2021, about 250 teachers resigned, a spokesperson said.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, the state’s largest school system, a spokesperson said nearly 400 of its vacancies were for teachers. However, it hasn’t reported a big increase in quits over the past four fiscal years, according to county data.

Read more about teacher resignations at and listen to my conversation with WTOP’s Megan Cloherty on the DMV Download podcast below.

By the numbers
Some data that caught my attention this week.

Student registration: Enrollment in DC’s public and charter schools could decline in coming years, according to a study released this week by local research group DC Policy Center.

The report finds that if enrollment did not change significantly before or during the pandemic, the number of students in the school system could drop to 81,000 by 2026. There are currently about 87,000 enrolled.

[Read more about the report’s findings on]

What Scott Reads

  • Fairfax Co. Public Schools Moving Towards Benefits Equity for LGBTQ+ Staff [WTOP]
  • ‘Wheels in Motion’ camp builds confidence and keeps it fun [WTOP]
  • Speed ​​camera enforcement and higher speed limit near two Manassas schools get ‘green light’ [WTOP]
  • Fairfax students call for sex ed reform after Roe v. Wade fall [Washington Post]
  • DC Schools Must Report Faulty Classroom Door Locks and HVAC Under Proposal [Washington Post]
  • School community members say MCPS was safer with ORS [Bethesda Beat]
  • Expansion with proposed new parking solution to relieve overcrowding at Justice High School [FFX Now]


Here’s a fun thought before the weekend.

minion madness: As a Minion lover, I was hoping to make time to see the new Minion movie this weekend. But I can’t find someone to go with me, so maybe it’s “Elvis” instead. After a few years of watching everything at home, the idea of ​​booking movie tickets is daunting.


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