MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) announced Tuesday that White Station High School was named as one of 60 schools in the U.S. to pilot an Advanced Placement (AP) course focused on African American studies.
MSCS said the Shelby County Board of Education entered into an agreement with College Board, the administrators of the AP program, to participate in a three-year pilot program for the class beginning in the fall of the 2022-2023 school year.
According to College Board, AP classes offer students the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school by taking tests on college-level subjects taught in the classes.
The district said a number of factors played a role in White Station High being selected by the College Board, including the district's dedication to prioritizing advanced placement courses. White Station High was also a pilot school for AP Seminar and Research.
College Board said they met with Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCU) across the U.S. to ensure the course is representative of deep African History.
The curriculum is slated to study people of African descent who were subjected to slave trades and other historic events that shaped modern African American culture. Currently, the course will include Medieval kingdoms to contemporary moments such as:
- Origins of the African Diaspora
- Enslavement of Insurgency
- Practice of Freedom
- Movements in America
- Diversity of Black communities in the United States with the context of Africa and African Diaspora
The program is piloted in schools where the demographics vary, MSCS said.
MSCS said approximately 75% of their student population identifies as African American.
"Every day we aim to prepare students for success in learning, leadership, and life," said MSCS Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray. "This pilot opportunity not only illustrates the need to enhance AP course offerings but also the ability to guide the younger generation to have a better understanding of all history and why it is relevant today."
MSCS said while the district offers multiple classes focused on African American studies, the AP African American Studies course is the first of its kind focused on African American history.
Some parents have questioned if this goes against state law, which bans critical race theory in schools, and the district said since the course is developed by the college board, their college professors will make sure the class doesn't violate anything in the state law.
Thursday, Feb. 25, White Station will have an AP course workshop for White Station parents and students to learn all the AP courses the school has to offer, then students will be able to apply for the courses they want to take in the fall.
MSCS also added that no additional funding is needed for the course, as the district allocates an annual budget to train teachers for AP courses.