Statement on AP Psychology and Florida

We are sad to have learned that today the Florida Department of Education has effectively banned AP Psychology in the state by instructing Florida superintendents that teaching foundational content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal under state law. The state has said districts are free to teach AP Psychology only if it excludes any mention of these essential topics.

The AP course asks students to “describe how sex and gender influence socialization and other aspects of development.” This element of the framework is not new: gender and sexual orientation have been part of AP Psychology since the course launched 30 years ago.

As we shared in June, we cannot modify AP Psychology in response to regulations that would censor college-level standards for credit, placement, and career readiness. Our policy remains unchanged. Any course that censors required course content cannot be labeled “AP” or “Advanced Placement,” and the “AP Psychology” designation cannot be utilized on student transcripts.

To be clear, any AP Psychology course taught in Florida will violate either Florida law or college requirements. Therefore, we advise Florida districts not to offer AP Psychology until Florida reverses their decision and allows parents and students to choose to take the full course.

We have heard from teachers across Florida who are heartbroken that they are being forced to drop AP and instead teach alternatives that have been deemed legal because the courses exclude these topics.

The American Psychological Association recently reaffirmed that any course that excludes these topics would violate their guidelines and should not be considered for college credit. The APA has given this direct guidance to organizations that have agreed to this censorship.

Similarly, American Council on Education president Ted Mitchell has said: “It strains credulity to believe that our reviewers would certify for college credit a psychology course that didn’t include gender identity.”

The state’s ban of this content removes choice from parents and students. Coming just days from the start of school, it derails the college readiness and affordability plans of tens of thousands of Florida students currently registered for AP Psychology, one of the most popular AP classes in the state. AP is recognized by thousands of colleges and universities across the United States for admissions, scholarships consideration, college credit, and advanced standing. More than 28,000 Florida students took AP Psychology in the 2022-23 academic year.

The AP Program will do all we can do to support schools in their plans for responding to this late change.

Statement from the Development Committee responsible for guiding the AP Psychology course

We, the AP Psychology Development Committee, are college and high school educators who bring decades of combined knowledge, training, and expertise to the development of the AP Psychology course and exam. We work to ensure the AP Psychology course is aligned with best practices for teaching and learning in introductory psychology and is developmentally appropriate for students and families choosing college-level work. We stand behind the AP Program in its commitment to “not modify courses to accommodate restrictions on teaching essential, college-level topics.” Further, we also believe that accommodating such restrictions “would break the fundamental promise of AP: colleges wouldn’t broadly accept that course for credit and that course wouldn’t prepare students for success in the discipline.” (AP Program, June 2023).

As a committee, we affirm that gender and sexual orientation are essential, longstanding, and foundational topics in the study of psychology. College-level introductory psychology students will encounter gender and sexual orientation as topics of study. Psychology graduates go on to pursue a range of careers and must be able to successfully navigate professional environments that will require familiarity with these concepts. To best prepare these students for college placement and careers in psychology, the topic on gender and sexual orientation will continue to be required in AP Psychology.

We are surprised that IB and AICE/Cambridge—after agreeing to Florida’s demand that they exclude all references to gender and sexual orientation—expect universities to accept their courses and exams for college credit. No experienced educator or practitioner in our field would support the decision to make these topics off limits. We challenge IB and Cambridge to identify the experts whom they consulted prior to deciding that a fundamental component of psychological development would now be banished from the classroom instruction they seek to promote.

Finally, we believe this deliberate exclusion amounts to a material change of AICE/Cambridge’s Psychology course that has historically been recommended for credit by the American Council on Education (ACE). It is our understanding that ACE will be asking its review panel to review this newly restrictive course.

Development Committee Members:

  • Kenneth Carter, PhD, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology, Oxford College of Emory University
  • Elliott Hammer, PhD, John LaFarge Professor in Social Justice, Xavier University of Louisiana
  • Gabriel Marquez, AP Psychology Teacher, Red Mountain High School (AZ)
  • Daria Schaffeld, AP Psychology Teacher, Prospect High School (IL)
  • Allison Shaver, AP Psychology Teacher, Plymouth High School (MA)
  • Gabrielle Smith, PhD, Associate Professor, Texas Women’s University
  • Maria Vita, AP Psychology Teacher, Penn Manor High School (PA)
  • Jason Young, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Chair, Thomas Hunter Honors Program, CUNY – Hunter College