Changes made to history, social science SOLs

Published 2:41 am Thursday, October 22, 2020

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The state Board of Education recently approved a series of edits to the commonwealth’s history and social science standards of learning and SOL curriculum framework to implement recommendations from Gov. 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 SOL 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 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.

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.