New History Standards, New Concerns

In Nov. 2022, after two rejected drafts, VDOE was asked by the Virginia Board of Education to create a third draft of the K-12 Social Studies Standards.

Released in Jan. 2023, these standards aimed to include elements of the prior two drafted standards.

The head of the History Department and IB History of the Americas teacher Roy Wood said he took part in the creation of the original draft standards two years ago. He and other teachers from across the county came together in a virtual meeting in Aug. 2021 to start the process.

“We were given free rein to kind of rewrite the program of studies for World History 2 as we saw fit,” he said. “I solicited input from the rest of the people in this department that teach World

History 2 or have taught it, and we created what we thought [was] really well rounded, less eurocentric.”

Wood said one change was focusing away from the Standards of Learning.

“In years past, the standards have been tied directly to the SOL test,” Wood said. “Many teachers—and I can’t speak for anybody but myself here—[think] the SOL test is a waste of time. It’s a trivia test.”

Wood also signed a non-disclosure agreement forbiding further comment of the work he and other teachers did on the draft.

“I remember that we focused our discussion around the program of studies that has existed before using the 2015 standards”, Wood said. “And we kind of used those as a framework from which to build out the ideas we had about world history.”

This draft of the document was later rewritten. Concern from the public rose when the second draft, 300 pages shorter than the first, was released in November 2022.

A Board member and the former Virginia Secretary of Education, Anne Holton, noted the recurrence of Ronald Reagan throughout the new draft and the absence of Barack Obama.

Other critics pointed to the draft’s descriptions of Native Americans as America’s “first immigrants” and the inclusion of historically inaccurate information.

“The idea to call Native Americans the first immigrants is not only inaccurate, it’s insulting,” junior Diana Colon said. “We treated them poorly in history, and we need to know that to get better because quite frankly, we’re still treating them poorly.”

Within the civics guidelines from kindergarten to third grade, learning patriotic songs was listed as a standard.

“You can’t force your opinions and beliefs on other people,” Colon said. “We need to learn the cold hard truth, not some version our parents think we should know.”

Draft three of the standards was proposed in Jan. 2023.

The Virginia Department of Education website states this draft aims to “incorporate content from earlier drafts and include new content to tell a more complete story about how the past has shaped the commonwealth, the nation and the world.”

VDOE also released an estimated timeline of next steps for the History and Social Science Standards: between Feb.ruary and March of 2023 public hearings and comments on draft standards will take place.

In April, the standards will be adopted, and in August a curriculum framework based on the standards will be presented.