AP African American History slated to be piloted, AP Precalculus dropped at CHS

Katelyn Chu, Editor-in-Chief

In the midst of a press conference, supporters cluster behind Florida Governor Ron Desantis, holding out signs that read “STOP WOKE” and “Freedom from Indoctrination.” And right outside the gates of the Florida state capitol, protesters gather with messages: “Our School. Our Home. Our Choice.” and “Stop the Black Attack.”

While the Florida State Capitol and related national controversies may seem like a far cry away from the steps of CHS, new AP pilot courses–including AP African American History–have been at the forefront of school administrators’ and teachers’ minds throughout the course scheduling season.

“We’ve been one of 60 schools selected to try to pilot AP African American History,” history teacher Brittanye Mohrbacher said. “I am excited about the opportunity to bring the course to Chantilly. I think it would be very interesting to focus on the underrepresented voices in history.”

Mohrbacher is slated to teach the course next year. However, to officially bring the AP African American History to fruition, at least 20 students need to indicate their interest for the class in their course selection. According to the College Board, the class is interdisciplinary and will cover the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans in literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography and science.

“On our end [to introduce a new class] we need a teacher who is qualified and students interested to create a section that’s large enough,” Assistant Principal Jihoon Shin said. 

Desantis officially banned the AP African American History course from Florida schools, citing that it pushes an agenda, not a curriculum. Desantis’ rhetoric can be traced to Virginia politics as well. In February, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin asked the state Department of Education to review AP African History in February, checking for curriculum that is “inherently divisive.”

“It’s important to acknowledge different experiences, because our schools are very diverse,” Mohrbacher said. “I think that our curriculum should reflect and respect the diverse student body that we have. Even if the students are not African American, I think they can appreciate learning about different perspectives.”

AP classes have long been an institution in many schools. In the 2023-2024 year, the College Board will pilot AP Precalculus and AP African-American History. ( Katelyn Chu)

While AP African American History has been thrust into the national spotlight, AP Precalculus is another course being piloted by the College Board for the 2023-2024 year. The course is intended for students of all math competency levels and interests, and the College Board says that this course is designed to better prepare students for college-level calculus and provide grounding for other mathematics and science courses. 

“To start a new class at Chantilly, the teacher who is interested in teaching it will research it and provide a write up to the instructional council, a group of teachers and administrators who meet twice a month to make decisions about teaching and learning in the building,” Assistant Principal Kristi Layman said. “The instructional council considers each of them, and then decides.”

Like all AP classes, AP Precalculus includes a +1.0 boost to students’ GPA, as opposed to the +.5 bump of what CHS will continue to offer, Honors Precalculus. Students also have the possibility to receive college credit, but because AP Precalculus is a pilot course, it’s not guaranteed that colleges will validate high exam scores in the future.

“I think one of the benefits of AP classes is that you’re usually surrounded by people who are a lot more motivated in that class, so it makes working with your peers much easier,” sophomore and current AP student Mathangi Ramakrishnan said.

However, critics of the class have asserted that precalculus is traditionally a high school level course and has only recently been taught in colleges. Additionally, according to the College Board, AP Precalculus’ content would draw many parallels to current high school precalculus courses, raising the question of whether the AP stamp on the class is even necessary. CHS has chosen not to offer AP Precalculus for the 2023-2024 year. However, other FCPS schools, such as Centreville High School, will exclusively offer AP Precalculus. 

“I don’t think CHS kids are at an advantage or disadvantage because Honors Precalculus prepares the student for AB or BC Calc, “ sophomore Anna Galysh said. “AP Precalculus is for college credit, so they serve different purposes with similar content.”

Every year, school administrators determine what FCPS approved classes will be offered at CHS the next year, leaving possibilities for AP Precalculus to be offered and AP African American History to be offered at CHS in the future.

“If it’s you or if you have a bunch of friends who are interested, find a teacher in that subject; see if they would be interested in helping you advocate,” Layman said. “The best thing to do is always advocate.”