State law requires the SOLs for each subject to be developed by the Virginia Department of Education and reapproved by the Board of Education every seven years, with the timing of reviews being staggered across subjects. The process is often quiet and ponderous, but this year’s review drew significant attention this summer after the board – led by a five-member majority appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) – questioned the first proposed version of the department’s standards posed and prompted a complete overhaul.
The five members raised concerns about the length and content of the 400-plus-page initial draft of the standards. In response, the education division delivered a much shorter 53-page iteration of the standards for board review last Friday. This new version generally places less emphasis on the perspectives of marginalized races, removed stimulated discussions about racism and its lingering effects, and encourages the functioning of the free market with limited government intervention, according to a Washington Post review.
In a memo sent to state legislators, the Department of Education said the changes were made because “the August 2022 draft standards were unnecessarily difficult for educators to understand and implement; They were also inaccessible to parents and families.” The new proposed standards, it said, would “revisit repetitive and vaguely competency-based standards that teachers could interpret in infinitely different ways, which would not result in ‘shared knowledge as Virginians and as US Citizens’ would lead. ”
The new standards have been praised by some conservative advocates, including parent rights advocates, who say the guidelines will help children develop critical thinking skills. However, the new standards have been criticized by left-leaning educators and lawmakers, who argue that they offer a simpler version of history that pays less attention to the perspectives and lives of people of color, particularly indigenous and non-European communities.
Thursday’s board meeting will be the first time members will review these new and shorter standards. A final vote on the standards is scheduled for February.
A day before the meeting, Senator Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) wrote a letter to the board asking that the proposed standards be rejected and instead proceed with the original 402-page version submitted by the department in August became.
In the letter, seen by The Post, she writes that the revised version minimizes “differing perspectives” and reflects right-wing political priorities.
“The revised draft erases important elements of our history and deliberately omits the multiple perspectives that shape our Commonwealth and nation,” she wrote. “The revised standards released last week appear to have been written with the heavy hand of a political officer with an agenda, ignoring the guidance of educators, experts and relevant stakeholders over a period of nearly two years.”
The education department’s director of board relations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on McClellan’s letter Wednesday night.
According to a Post-Analysis, the revised version of the Department of Education’s standards places less emphasis on the perspectives of marginalized groups — particularly Native American culture and society — does not mention the word “racism,” and also promotes a free-market economy important to democracy, and also urges teachers to emphasize the idea that government should play a limited role in regulating markets.
In her Wednesday letter, McClellan cited some of these developments when asking the board to reject the new version of the standards.
In particular, she pointed out that the new standards make no provision for teaching students through sixth grade about Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, and never mention teaching them about Juneteenth or Cesar Chaves. She wrote that “the revised draft also downplays the history of indigenous peoples compared to ‘pioneer aspirations'”. ”
She wrote that the world history curriculum does not provide a complex picture of global history because it mainly focuses on European history in its early years.
“And the draft omits virtually any discussion of the history or modern culture of the Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ communities,” McClellan wrote. “These decisions would mean that hundreds of thousands of Virginia children would not have the opportunity to learn more about their community’s contributions to the fabric and history of our nation.”