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Va. head of public instruction wants to delay draft of history standards, again

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Virginia Board of Education meeting

Jillian Balow, Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction, talked with Daniel Gecker, president of the state’s Board of Education in August ahead of a meeting at the James Monroe Building in downtown Richmond.

Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton on Friday criticized state education officials' delay in approving revised state history standards.

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow wants to delay the process of updating the Virginia Department of Education’s history standards for a second time.

According to a superintendent’s update memo, published ahead of Thursday’s state board of education meeting, Balow is now asking for the board not to review or adopt the updated history and social sciences standards until February.

Education department doesn't expect major changes to draft of history standards

Balow first urged the board in August to allow more time before its first thorough review of the proposed standards. Then the following month, the timeline regarding the final review changed, bumping the board’s final review of the standards from November to January.

“Since the September Board meeting, new board members have raised important concerns and questions about the draft standards,” Balow wrote. “Additionally, we sought reviews by individuals and entities, whose voices had not yet been heard.”

It was not immediately clear Wednesday afternoon who Balow was referring to as “individuals and entities.” Balow did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Va. Senate Dems urge education board to approve history standards

According to state law, the state Department of Education and the state Board of Education are required to review Standards of Learning subject areas at least once every seven years. First published in 1995, state history and social science Standards of Learning were reviewed by state education officials in 2001, 2008 and 2015.

Revisions to the current history standards began during then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration. The revision process has garnered more than 5,000 public comments regarding the standards.

When crafting the roughly 400-page draft, the Virginia Department of Education worked with several committees made up of historians, students, teachers, school administrators, professors and more. Balow wrote in the memo: “this work is paramount, and we must not settle on a standards product that falls short of our best because of strict adherence to a timeline.”

State head of public instruction wants more time for draft of history standards

“It remains our shared objective to have best-in-class standards that teach students that America is simultaneously diverse and united, that we continuously endeavor to become the greatest country in the world, and that our freedoms are both protected and fragile. Simply, our standards will be representative of many voices in Virginia across multiple years,” Balow added.

The “revised and intended” timeline:

October-November

  • Seek additional input, incorporate changes, make edits to the standards document
  • Focus on “a correct, concise, understandable” standards document

Nov. 17

  • First review of standards document

Nov. 28 — Dec. 16

  • Community engagement sessions
  • Continue working on curriculum framework

Jan. 9-13, 2023

  • State Board public hearings
  • Continue working on curriculum frameworks

January-February 2023

  • Final standards content review
  • Review public comments
  • Incorporate changes into standards document

February 2023

  • Review and adoption by the State Board

March to August 2023

  • Finalize curriculum frameworks for school divisions
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jnocera@timesdispatch.com Twitter: @jessmnocera

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