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Board of Ed advances draft history standards

History Standards Public Comment
Virginia Dept. of Education livestream
Dozens of people criticized the draft K-12 history standards during more than three hours of public comment Thursday.

The Virginia Board of Education voted to advance a controversial draft of new K-12 history standards Thursday. But they’re still a long way from being used in the classroom.

The state department of education has been writing and rewriting the guidelines for history and social studies since last summer. The latest draft, released to the public in January, got the support of Martin Brown, the state’s Chief Diversity Officer. "I believe the good the bad and the ugly have actually been communicated in these standards," Brown told the board.

But nearly every other speaker during the more than three hours of public comment at Thursday’s board meeting criticized the draft standards.

Pastor Michelle Thomas, of the Loudoun NAACP branch, said the document relegates people of color to mere footnotes. "We deserve better," Thomas said. "I’m asking you, in Black History Month, to do the right thing not just for Black students but for all students."

Others criticized the process that put the original draft out to conservative think-tanks for revision. And numerous teachers, like Beau Dickinson from Rockingham County, said the latest draft crams too much information into inappropriate age groups and timeframes. "I sincerely ask this board, where is the instructional time coming from to teach an additional 132 standards?"

The board voted down an effort to accept a compromise draft developed by history and social studies professional organizations and moved the January draft to the public input phase.

Read the draft K-12 History and Social Science Standards of Learning

Board member Andy Rotherham emphasized there will be more edits. "I think we should be very clear, we’re putting this out for public comment. This is not an adoption. We’re not locking in."

Other board members said they already had a list of edits that they want to see. "What we have before us, as we have heard today, does not get at the kind of rigor we say matters in education," board vice president Tammy Mann argued.

Mann and other board members said they had concerns with the introduction to the document. Board president Dan Gecker said he found the introduction "to be offensive to the profession and reflects things I just don't agree with."

Final adoption could come during the board’s April meeting.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.
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