After criticism, new history standards aim to tell ‘more complete story’ of Virginia history

The Virginia State Superintendent of Public Instruction is out with another revision of the standards of learning for history and social science.

Superintendent Jillian Balow, in a news release, said the proposed standards “incorporate content from earlier drafts and include new content to tell a more complete story about how the past has shaped the commonwealth.”

When the proposed revisions first came out last fall, there was a lot of criticism, with some saying it was them whitewashing history. The standards did not include Juneteenth or Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the holiday sections in elementary education. That has now been changed to include both holidays.

Also, the old proposal suggested that there were several causes for the Civil War beside slavery. The just-released new document said “slavery and its expansion was the primary cause of the cultural, economic, and constitutional issues that divided the nation and was the catalyst for secession of southern states.”

The new document also frequently refers to Indigenous Peoples; whereas in previous versions, they were often referred to as America’s “first immigrants.”

Education Secretary Aimee Guidera said in a statement that the revised standards “better meet Governor Glenn Youngkin’s directive to teach all history — the good and the bad.”

Virginia’s standards of learning in these areas have not been revised since 2015, and the process of even getting to this point has been rocky.

The Virginia Board of Education last August decided to pause the process of reworking the standards of learning, which determine what students are expected to know after going through classes. That delay was urged by Youngkin and Balow.

The process dragged on and by October, it became clear the deadline to revise the standards would be missed a third time. The latest draft of the standards was released Friday.

As far as the timeline to get the standard approved and used in schools, Balow said, “With the draft standards now before the board, the department will begin the work of developing detailed curriculum frameworks for each grade and course.”

The frameworks, which are used by teachers and division instructional staff to develop lesson plans and local curricula, “will include content from the framework documents presented last summer and will be ready for review by the Board of Education in August 2023,” Balow said.

Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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