VEA Calls for Adopting Collaborative History and Social Science Standards
February 1, 2023
February 1, 2023
The following statement is from Dr. James J. Fedderman, President of the Virginia Education Association, regarding Virginia’s History and Social Science Standards of Learning:
Tomorrow, the Virginia Board of Education will vote on whether to receive the Proposed Revised 2022 History and Social Science Standards of Learning. This most recent January version of draft history standards falls short in several regards, including in terms of sequencing, rigor, accuracy, pedagogy, non-partisanship, and in the process used to create it. The Virginia Education Association (VEA) calls on the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) to reject this latest draft and adopt the Collaborative Standards developed by The Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium (VSSLC), the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (VASCD), and the American Historical Association (AHA). The Collaborative Standards combine the best elements of the August and November drafts, and make improvements based on stakeholder feedback thus far to each.
While the Youngkin administration claims more than 200 stakeholders were consulted for the January draft, conversations with the major education and history associations in Virginia, along with former participants in the process, lead us to question who, in fact, was truly consulted. Since the first draft of the standards and curriculum was rejected in August, the process has been secretive and has required FIOAs, many of which have not yet been fulfilled, to get glimpses of who has been influencing the latest draft. What we learned is that the “missing voices” the administration claimed were not included in the first draft were right-wing and partisan think tanks, along with out-of-state religious colleges with no expertise in Virginia history. This opaque and secretive process has poisoned the well and led to the current draft, which is watered down, fails to sufficiently encourage critical thinking, relies on too much rote memorization, and features factual inaccuracies.
The draft’s introduction leads with a set of partisan values, with a clear aim of instilling blind patriotism in our students without considering the full complexity of our past and other political systems around the world. With such a preface, commitments in the document to instruct in “an objective, factual and age-appropriate way” ring hollow.
The introduction also states that “parents should have open access to all instructional materials utilized in any Virginia public school.” There is much ambiguity with what this means. Teachers constantly adapt materials based on formative assessments to meet their students’ needs and to differentiate instruction. Posting every worksheet, activity, and quiz online, often ten or more for a lesson, would require much of their time every day. Major tradeoffs need to be considered between the value of this level of transparency and where teachers would spend less time on other activities and preparing for lessons. In addition, the January proposed draft contains 132 new learning standards compared to the current set of standards – an 18 percent increase. With so many new standards and no additional instructional time, teachers will have to skim the surface of many important historical issues, rather than reviewing each in more depth with less repetition in later grades, as nearly all pedagogical experts advise. The Collaborative Standards have a mere 7 new standards – a 1 percent increase.
Teachers and their classrooms are not blank slates where you can just add infinite new responsibilities and learning standards and expect the same level of rigor. Teachers everywhere are working more hours than ever to meet student needs, are being paid less this year when you account for inflation, and are leaving the profession in droves – recent VDOE Positions and Exit survey data shows a staggering 25 percent increase in teacher vacancies this school year. It’s clear that teachers were not adequately consulted for this current draft, and neither was the Virginia Education Association – the largest association that represents more than 40,000 educators in the state.
We ask you to restore public faith in this process and choose a compromise approach by adopting the Collaborative Standards that incorporate both the August draft, which involved extensive and transparent outreach to stakeholders and experts, and the November draft. The integrity of the VBOE and confidence in our public education system are both at stake in this consequential and much-watched decision.
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