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Civics and Social Studies in Question at VA Schools

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Many teachers, parents, and policymakers have agreed that the state's Standards of Learning have forced classroom instruction to be geared toward test-taking, rather than developing more comprehensive learning skills. But as the SOLs are being revised, some are concerned that Social Studies-and ultimately the lessons that teach children civic engagement-are being minimized too much. 

Former Delegate Jim Dillard sits on the Virginia Commission on Civics Education and is heading up the Virginia Civics Summit, which provides continuing education for teachers.  The former educator admits that he's a little biased about civics education-but he questions the state’s recent decision to eliminate some SOL tests.

"When you eliminate five of the SOL assessments, and three of them are Social Studies, that gives a pretty clear picture how you figure about Social Studies and Civics - and that's a real concern to me."

He says it doesn't mean that teachers aren't teaching those subjects, but it makes it more challenging to include them in their lessons.  Dillard says one goal of the commission is to make sure there are no further cuts to Social Studies. He believes civics can be covered in history and government courses-but regardless of the subject, incorporating class management, problem-solving skills, greater class participation, and working in groups at an early age will also help promote civic engagement.  

Tommie McNeil is a State Capitol reporter who has been covering Virginia and Virginia politics for more than a decade. He originally hails from Maryland, and also doubles as the evening anchor for 1140 WRVA in Richmond.