RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow wants to push back when the Board of Education votes on changes to state standards for history and social science, the second time the Youngkin appointee has asked for a delay in the process.
The state board must review the state’s Department of Education’s standards of learning in all subject areas at least once every seven years and make revisions “as may be necessary,” according to Virginia law.
A vote was expected by the end of the year, but the board decided to delay the review process in August after a recommendation from Balow.
An updated timeline for revising the standards was shared in September, but Balow laid out a new plan in an Oct. 17 memo to the state board before members meet on Thursday.
“Since the September Board meeting, new board members have raised important concerns and questions about the draft standards. Additionally, we sought reviews by individuals and entities, whose voices had not yet been heard,” Balow wrote in her memo.
Charles Pyle, a Virginia Department of Education spokesman, said Balow was in a State Board of Education meeting when 8News reached out for an interview Wednesday. Pyle did not respond when asked for additional information on the “individuals and entities” mentioned in the memo.
The draft was developed under then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s Department of Education with input from educators, historians, parents, students, and others.
The Board of Education, a nine-member board with five Youngkin appointees on it now, decided to delay the process after Balow recommended that the new members picked by the governor needed more time to review the roughly 400-page draft standards document.
Balow wrote in her memo that Virginia Department of Education staff have worked “to correct errors, remove repetition, reorder guidance, and edit language” in the draft so the standards can be understood and used by parents, students and educators.
“This work is paramount, and we must not settle on a standards product that falls short of our best because of strict adherence to a timeline,” Balow continued. “To address the questions and concerns that have been raised, I have asked staff to make adjustments to the process presented to the Board in September.”
Community engagement sessions and meetings for the public to weigh in on the standards will come “the product is coherent and ripe for public feedback,” Balow told the board. She added that the plan is for the meetings to be held in December and January.
The memo states that the Department of Education’s goal is to present a draft that is “neutral in content and approach,” “inclusive of more voices,” “devoid of content gaps” and more.
“It remains our shared objective to have best-in-class standards that teach students that America is simultaneously diverse and united, that we continuously endeavor to become the greatest country in the world, and that our freedoms are both protected and fragile,” Balow wrote in the memo. “Simply, our standards will be representative of many voices in Virginia across multiple years.”
According to the timeline shared in the memo, Balow wants the state board to hold public hearings in January 2023 and hold a final vote in February 2023.
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