RICHMOND — The state Board of Education yesterday approved a series of edits to the commonwealth’s History and Social Science Standards of Learning and SOL Curriculum Framework to implement recommendations from Governor Ralph Northam’s Commission on African American History Education in the Commonwealth.

The curriculum framework details the essential knowledge and skills students must attain to meet learning objectives in the Standards of Learning for each grade level and course. The edits recommended by the commission will lead to changes in instruction in grades K-2, Virginia Studies, U.S. History to 1865, U.S. History 1865 to the Present, and Virginia and U.S. History.

“Incorporating additional context about African American history into the larger historical narrative has never been more important. The approval of these edits to the standards and curriculum framework begins Virginia’s effort to change the course of history and social science instruction to ensure inclusive and culturally relevant content in all grades and courses,” Board of Education President Daniel Gecker said. “I thank the members of the commission for their recommendations and for their commitment to supporting teachers as they implement these revisions in their classrooms.”

The edits approved today by the board expand the content of Virginia’s history standards by adding additional depth and context. For example, the addition of Old Point Comfort to the framework for Virginia Studies (typically taught in the fourth grade) provides more specificity to the standard about the arrival in 1619 of the first African Americans in British North America.

Another recommendation approved by the board is the addition of content about the history of lynching in America to the high school Virginia and U.S. History course. This new sub-standard provides opportunities for deeper exploration and synthesis of primary and secondary documents, including more than 200 pieces of legislation related to lynching proposed over the past 102 years.

Northam established the African American History Education Commission in August 2019. The commission comprised educators, historians, museum curators, school board members, faith leaders, school administrators, teachers, parents and other citizens from across the commonwealth.

 The governor charged commission members with recommending:

  • Technical edits to and recommendations for enriched standards related to African American History
  • Broader considerations for the full History and Social Science Standards of Learning review process scheduled to begin in January 2021; and
  • Necessary professional development and instructional supports for teachers to ensure culturally competent instruction.

The commission released its report on August 31. Following a review of the report by Virginia Department of Education instructional staff, Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane recommended that the Board of Education follow a two-step process to implement the commission’s recommendations, with the edits made Thursday representing the first step.

“It is with appreciation and gratitude that we acknowledge the contributions of the historians, educators and stakeholders that contributed to this momentous occasion,” Lane said. ”The adoption of these recommendations support efforts already underway at VDOE to advance the cultural proficiency and deepen the cultural inclusivity in our Standards of Learning. This marks a historic milestone for the commonwealth and our mission to ensure inclusive and supporting learning environments for all students. Our priority now is to provide the instructional resources and professional development support Virginia educators and the learning communities they serve will need for successful alignment of classroom instruction to the revised standards and curriculum framework.”

“With the approval of these edits, the board moves Virginia’s history standards to being more inclusive and providing opportunities for students to engage deeply by drawing connections between African American history and its relevance in our contemporary communities,” Board of Education Vice President Jamelle S. Wilson said. “These edits help ensure that all Virginia students develop a comprehensive understanding of all of the voices that contribute to the commonwealth’s story.”

“Most importantly, these edits acknowledge and amplify the resistance, resilience, innovation and sacrifices of African Americans and their continued contributions to American society,” Gecker said.

The Board of Education will also consider commission recommendations that would represent the introduction of new content and areas of study during the comprehensive, regularly scheduled review of the History and Social Science Standards of Learning, which will begin next year. The review will culminate with the adoption in 2022 of new history and social science standards.

A recording of yesterday’s virtual Board of Education business meeting is available on the VDOE YouTube channel. The discussion of the edits to the History and Social Science SOL and Curriculum Framework begins at 16:00.