School Zone: What to know about AP African American studies pilot course

Welcome to the School Zone, WTOP’s weekly feature about the latest topics and trends in education across the D.C. region.

AP Program launches African American studies pilot course

What it is: High school students across the U.S. may soon be able to take an Advanced Placement African American studies course.

The topic is the latest potential offering from the College Board, which oversees the AP Program that enables students to receive college credit for completing an advanced course and passing an exam in high school. It will launch as a two-year pilot program for the class.


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This week, nearly 60 educators attended a four-day seminar at Howard University in D.C. to discuss course concepts and best teaching practices. The university said it remains committed to “attracting Black and Latinx high school teachers” to its Advanced Placement Summer Institute to help increase diversity among AP teachers.

What it means: During the pilot phase, the program will seek student and teacher feedback, determine which course materials should be used and work to engage with African American communities.

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



Regional snapshot: The AP African American studies course will be offered in 60 high schools across the U.S. during the first year of the pilot.

In the second year, students in over 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 over a decade.

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

Williams said that from her perspective, the course shouldn’t begin with slavery, but rather, “it is a curriculum that is comprehensive, that speaks on the values and the contributions, the struggles and obstacles, but the resiliency 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.

The teachers who participated in the workshop in D.C. this week heard from several speakers, toured the campus and went through “curriculum that’s been vetted for years by experts in the field,” Williams said.

DC-area school systems grapple with teacher resignations

School systems across the D.C. region are seeing a rise in teacher resignations as they transition back into the classroom after months of virtual learning.

In Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest school system, nearly 900 teachers have resigned 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 talk about (how) we can’t pay you what you deserve, you’ll kind of get respect — depending on who you talk to. It won’t be easy, but you’re going to love the kids, right? That’s not much of a sales pitch. We’re working as a school system to address those things,” Frisch said.

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

Several other jurisdictions have seen a similar pattern.

In D.C., from Jan. 2022 through the beginning of July, 372 teachers resigned. Between Jan. 2021 and June 2021, about 250 teachers quit, a spokesman said.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, the state’s largest school system, a spokesman said nearly 400 of its open positions are for teachers. However, it hasn’t reported a large uptick in resignations over the last four fiscal years, according to county data.

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

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

Student enrollment: Enrollment in D.C. public and charter schools could decline in the coming years, according to a study released this week by local research group D.C. Policy Center.

The report reveals that while enrollment didn’t change much before or during the pandemic, the number of students in the school system could fall to 81,000 by 2026. There are currently about 87,000 enrolled.

[Read more about the report’s findings on WTOP.com]

What Scott’s Reading

  • Fairfax Co. public schools move toward benefits equity for LGBTQ+ staff [WTOP]
  • ‘Wheels in Motion’ camp inspires confidence, 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 fall of Roe v. Wade [Washington Post]
  • D.C. schools must report on classroom door locks, faulty HVACS under proposal [Washington Post]
  • School community members say MCPS was safer with SROs [Bethesda Beat]
  • Expansion with new parking solution proposed to relieve overcrowding at Justice High School [FFX Now]

Field Trip 

Here’s a fun thought ahead of the weekend.

Minion madness: As a Minion aficionado, I was hoping to make some time to see the new Minion movie this weekend. But I can’t seem to find someone to go with me, so it may be “Elvis” instead. After a few years of watching everything at home, the thought of reserving movie tickets is daunting.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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