November 30, 2022

Themacforums – Separation of Virginia History Standards and Curriculum Causes Questions. Many people are looking forward to the curriculum framework, the companion document to Virginia’s K–12 history and social science standards as communities and experts review them.

Jillian Balow, the superintendent of public instruction, informed the board of education last month that she had chosen to separate the curriculum framework from the proposed history and social science standards because the two together produced “vague” and “confusing information” for the general public.

“In the past few years, especially since school closures, the standards document has become much more front and center as a document that parents and community members rely on as a public, digestible, and understandable document that says this is what is being taught at what grade level and to what depth,” she said. And a 400+ page document plus structure does not achieve that objective. The general population finds it difficult to understand.

However, the absence of the curriculum framework sparked criticism and doubt because the board and the public were unable to compare the two as the standards proposed by the Republican governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration were presented to the board in a contentious, nearly eight-hour-long meeting earlier this month.

At the board meeting on November 17, Youngkin appointee Alan Seibert observed, “I think we’ve created the conditions for misunderstanding.”

Another Youngkin appointee and board member Bill Hansen rebounded this sentiment, saying, “I do think that what’s not here is what caused the concern out there and lacking communication, lacking context.”

The Function of the Educational Framework

The exact information and abilities required for pupils to satisfy the state’s educational standards in various topics are laid out in a curriculum framework.

Separation of Virginia History Standards and Curriculum Causes Questions. According to Balow, while the standards paper is more “public-facing and defines the general learning goals,” the curricular framework, which will be based on the standards, is the “bridge between the resources that are used and the teaching that happens every day.”

Separation of Virginia History Standards and Curriculum Causes Questions

The curriculum framework was part of a 402-page document that was part of the August standards that the Board of Education was considering. The November standards, which did not include the framework, were much shorter, coming in at only 53 pages.

In October, Balow stated that she had thought about compiling everything into one document, but that the outcome was not “possible as a publicly consumable text.”

The staff can work on the curriculum framework while the draught standards are being changed because the two are separated, she added.

Since teachers are the ones who use the curricular framework, Balow believes it is crucial that we engage them during the development of the framework as one of our key audiences and communities for feedback.

At the Oct. 20 meeting, a few board members, including President Daniel Gecker and Member Anne Holton, both of whom were appointed by the former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, voiced their reservations with the decoupling.

“I think it’s important that we maintain them together for policy and process reasons,” Holton added.

Balow, though, has claimed that the present strategy isn’t all that dissimilar from the method used during the state’s last modification of expectations seven years ago.

The Function of the Educational Framework

“The standards document was accepted in 2015. I think it was a 60-page document,” she stated on October 20. “Nearly a year later, the curriculum frameworks were before the board.”

Charles Pyle, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education, added in an email that “the 2018 Science (Standards of Learning) were adopted in 2018.” The following June, the relevant curriculum framework was adopted.

A “both-and” Strategy

However, some parents and educators have criticized the decoupling.

Instead of decoupling, according to Chad Stewart, a policy analyst for the Virginia Education Association, “it really could be a “both-and” approach where additional materials are released to help the public understand this curriculum while you maintain some of the more important technical frameworks for teachers to really implement the highest quality instruction they are capable of for this content.”

Teachers won’t have enough time to plan lessons if the curricular framework review and standards review is conducted separately, according to Kathleen Smith, a former schoolteacher in Petersburg and administrator in the state education department. Teachers of all essential subjects in normal primary schools may find that to be especially challenging.

Smith remarked, “It’s beyond my comprehension how someone could assume that I could create lesson plans without a curriculum foundation. “It’s good to have those because I can just go in and get my resources, and it just makes life easier, but if you disconnect them, you’re removing a key resource for teachers,” the speaker said. More personnel will be lost in the field than you have already.

According to a recent study by the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. More teachers entered the workforce than left it before the current school year, 10,900.

A "both and" Strategy

Teachers claimed that their unhappiness was related to the increased workload brought on by job openings and a lack of respect from parents and the general public.

Because it “helps teachers in the methodology, sequencing, and development of their lesson,” according to Stewart, the curriculum framework may be even more significant than the standards.

He continued by saying that the framework also aids teachers in swiftly formulating the important questions they must pose to their pupils.

The new standards-based assessments won’t start until the 2024–2025 school year.

Special Gathering Anticipated for January

“Separation of Virginia History Standards and Curriculum Causes Questions.” According to a presentation made to the Board of Education on November 17, the curricular framework is currently being written by Virginia Department of Education employees before it is released for public review.

At the same meeting, the board decided to postpone its normal review until January. The draught is anticipated to incorporate comments from the general public and material from the August version.

According to Balow, the public and the board can also provide feedback on the framework.