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South Florida schools are now offering AP psychology — but with caveats

Student James Montalbano, 11th grade, works with teacher Angela Benjamin in the Advanced Placement (AP) Physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The College Board says in a new report that the number of U.S. public students taking Advanced Placement classes doubled over the last decade. The class of 2013 of took 3.2 million AP exams.
Charles Dharapak
FILE: Student James Montalbano, 11th grade, works with teacher Angela Benjamin in the Advanced Placement (AP) Physics class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

After almost a week of reversals and confusion, students across all of South Florida will now be able to take Advanced Placement psychology — with caveats.

Just days — and in some cases hours — before classes begin, school districts have each settled on how to roll out the curriculum for the college level course.

Palm Beach and Monroe County schools say they will offer adapted versions of the curriculum that align with state laws, while students in Broward County will need parental consent to take the course. Miami-Dade is the only school district that is offering AP psychology without any alterations or restrictions.

It comes after the Florida Department of Education reportedly told superintendents that the course unit on “gender and sexual orientation" did not align with the state's Parents' Bill of Rights — also known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill — which restricts instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The FDOE quickly reversed their decision after the College Board said the course would no longer count for college credit without that unit.

READ MORE: AP psychology gets green light, but South Florida schools remain cautious

Nevertheless, uncertainty in South Florida has continued as classes prepare to begin, with a patchwork of approaches across school districts.

On Wednesday, Palm Beach County schools announced that it will resume offering AP psychology to students this year — just a day before class starts.

Palm Beach County Superintendent Michael J. Burke said the college level course will be taught in its entirety in an “age and developmentally appropriate” manner to enrolled high school students. Earlier this week, the school district had withdrawn enrollment to the college curriculum course, citing concerns over its "viability."

"I am pleased that in the final analysis based on the latest information available from both FDOE and College Board, the School District of Palm Beach County will continue to offer AP psychology to interested students as we have done for the past 30 years," Burke said in a statement.

Monroe County will follow suit with "an age appropriate lesson" for chapter 6.7 — on gender and sexual orientation — that "aligns with both the Florida law and the College Board course."

Broward County announced what they're calling an "opt-in" approach. Students who want to take AP psychology must acquire parental consent in order to enroll.

“Recognizing the depth and breadth of topics covered in AP psychology and in line with the importance of prioritizing student well-being and parental choice, we have decided to make enrollment for this elective an ‘opt-in’ process that expressly requires parental consent,” Broward School Superintendent Dr. Peter Licata said in a statement.

Miami-Dade County said that it will offer the course in its entirety and did not mention any other changes to the curriculum.

Ryan Dailey

State pressed to clarify stance

The issue poses a potential minefield for teachers trying to prepare students for college, follow course curriculums and obey state laws and regulations. Last year, 28,000 Florida students took the AP course, according to the College Board.

The Florida Education Association teachers union and the Florida PTA this week pressed state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. to clarify the state’s stance.

“While we are grateful for your letter of August 4, indicating that this popular college-level course can be taught ‘in its entirety,’ we believe that the subsequent condition, ‘age and developmentally appropriate,’ is so ambiguous and prone to subjective interpretation that further clarification is needed,” Florida PTA president Carolyn Nelson-Goedert wrote to Diaz on Monday.

The Florida Education Association asked Diaz to “clearly and unambiguously state that nothing in the AP psychology course violates” Florida law or rules.

“Districts, parents, students and teachers need to know AP psychology can be offered in Florida’s public schools in its entirety without any modifications, just as it has for decades, and be in compliance with the law,” FEA President Andrew Spar wrote to the commissioner.

The muddle over the course comes as local school officials also deal with issues such as teacher and staff shortages, a statewide universal voucher program approved this year by lawmakers and an oppressive heat wave.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

Alyssa Ramos is the multimedia producer for Morning Edition for WLRN. She produces regional stories for newscasts and manages digital content on WLRN.
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