Civic Education Commission endorses alternate Virginia history standards

Commission to send a letter expressing “displeasure” with drafting process

By: - December 21, 2022 6:09 pm

The history and social science standards are at the center of conversation for the education community in Virginia. (Mechelle Hankerson/ Virginia Mercury)

Virginia’s Commission on Civic Education joined the public pushback against draft history and social science standards for K-12 schools.

On Wednesday, the commission, which includes lawmakers and appointees by the General Assembly, voted to send a letter to the Virginia Board of Education objecting to the process used to craft the standards.

The letter will also ask the board to accept alternate standards proposed by three education groups and urge the board to improve its transparency in the drafting process.

The vote was conducted by voice. Del. Amanda Batten, R-James City, was not present.

Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, who serves as chair of the commission, said he hoped the board will consider moving forward with the alternate draft standards, which combine the administration’s November standards and standards released in August based on public input collected over the past two years. 

Three education groups propose alternate Virginia history standards

“We’re working together to create history standards that work for everybody because that’s the way it should be done,” said VanValkenburg.

The alternative version of the history standards released this week was developed by the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium, Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and American Historical Association.

The groups followed the same approach that the board has directed Department of Education staff to take. Staff have been asked to revise the newest standards by including content from both the August and November drafts as well as prepare a “crosswalk” document comparing the drafts.

The Virginia Department of Education expects to have “the draft ready before the end of the year,” according to a Tuesday email from agency spokesperson Charles Pyle.

Members of the commission expressed concerns about the drafting process, content and impact of the new standards on school divisions at Wednesday’s meeting. 

While state law requires that standards be reviewed every seven years, the latest revisions of the history and social science standards has proved unusually contentious. 

“There are all kinds of resources in schools aligned to the current standards, and if you’re going to make wholesale changes, that means the schools have to get new resources. Who is going to pay for that?” asked Alice Reilly, a commission representative appointed by the Senate. 

The administration said it pulled the August draft to address misspellings and typos and add input from consultants after more than 6,000 people provided public input. The significantly different November draft it produced received criticisms over its historical references, omissions and the people and organizations selected to review the document.

A list of consultants later released by the Department of Education included Bill Bennett, who served as U.S. Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. 

Adam Wallach, a Senate appointee, said he’s concerned the November draft standards take Virginia out of alignment with the National Council for the Social Sciences’ framework.

“Would you say that the November standards would take us out of alignment with what our national organization, and I mean our educators, put out?” Wallach asked Reilly.

“Yes,” she replied. 

No one spoke in favor of the November standards Wednesday.


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Nathaniel Cline
Nathaniel Cline

Nathaniel is an award-winning journalist who's been covering news across the country since 2007, including politics at The Loudoun Times-Mirror and The Northern Neck News in Virginia as well as sports for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. He has also hosted podcasts, worked as a television analyst for Spectrum Sports, and appeared as a panelist for conferences and educational programs. A graduate of Bowie State University, Nathaniel grew up in Hawaii and the United Kingdom as a military brat. Five things he must have before leaving home: his cellphone, Black Panther water bottle, hand sanitizer, wedding ring and Philadelphia Eagles keychain.