Divided Virginia Board of Education votes to move draft History SOLs forward: 'Put this to the public'

Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 02, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Despite multiple members of the Virginia Board of Education stating the latest draft of the state's History and Social Studies standards contains "flaws" and "should be improved," a majority of the board voted to move the draft forward for first review.

The five board members who voted to move the draft forward were all appointed by Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin. The three who voted against advancing the draft were all appointed by a Democratic governor.

Andy Rotherham and Dr. Alan Seibert, both appointed by Youngkin, said the public will now have the opportunity to comment on a physical draft, and the board can still go line-by-line through the draft to make changes before final approval.

"I agree with my colleague Dr. Seibert. I don't think this is the final. I think the wisdom of the Commonwealth in these various hearings we are going to have, more public input, I think we will be able to improve on the document," Rotherham said. "At some point, we have to say, let's put this out to the people of this state to get their wisdom, citizens, teachers, subject matter experts, and so forth, and then we will probably make some revisions, and we may get to line by line."

The board will now hold meetings with the public in March to get feedback.

The revised standards of learning in history and social science will set expectations for student learning in K-12 with the 2024-2025 school year.

Board President Dan Gecker, who was appointed by Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, said there are aspects of this draft that "don't respect my values," including the preface to the draft which he said contains language that is "offensive to the [teaching] profession and reflects things I just don't agree with."

The draft states the curriculum selected by local school boards should render "teacher-created curriculum unnecessary."

"The question is what is going to be the base document we use when we come back in April, and if this is the base document there are significant changes that are going to need to be made to have it reflect more of what the professional community who spoke before us today believes is developmentally appropriate and appropriate for the standards in the Commonwealth," Gecker said.

Board member Anne Holton, a former secretary of education who was appointed to the board and reappointed by Democratic governors, attempted to introduce an amendment to move the draft forward with that preface, which is called "guiding principles" in the draft, but her motion failed.

Prior to the vote, members of the public spoke for over four hours expressing their concerns with the draft of the standards.

The issues expressed about the draft include that they feel it is not trusting of teachers and discourages teacher-created materials, that it focuses on route memorizations of too many facts as opposed to curiosity and inquiry, that it contains political bias and that some of the subject matter doesn't align with the correct age group.

While the vast majority of the people who spoke during public comment were not in favor of the draft moving forward, board member Suparna Dutta, a Youngkin appointee, said "I think it's a mistake to feel people don't feel the other way. I've received a lot of emails. We do sometimes see some of the same folks, and I give them full credit for making the time here for it, but I don't think that physically being here or not here is necessarily a sign of the public sentiment."

Public hearings on the first draft will occur between March 13 and March 21. The Board will vote on the final draft on April 20.



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