Virginia superintendent wants to further delay history, science revisions

(The Center Square) – Revisions to Virginia’s history and science standards in the public school system could be delayed further following a request from Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

Ballow sent a memo to members of the Board of Education recommending the board hold off on a final vote until February. She said the Department of Education is still working to correct errors, remove repetition, reorder guidance and edit language so parents, educators and students can better understand the standards document.

“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,” Ballow wrote in her memo. “To address the questions and concerns that have been raised, I have asked staff to make adjustments to the process.”

The superintendent wrote the department intends to conduct community engagement sessions and public comment meetings when the product is coherent and ready for public feedback. She said the department intends to conduct those sessions and meetings in December and January.

According to Ballow, the department intends to present staff standards that are free of errors, concise, inclusive of more voices, balanced with content and facts, neutral and rigorous.

“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,” Ballow continued. “Simply, our standards will be representative of many voices in Virginia across multiple years.”

The new timeline proposed by the superintendent would continue to seek input and make changes through October and November and have its first review in November. The department would continue its work on curriculum frameworks and hold community engagement sessions through November and December and hold public hearings in January. The review of public comments, incorporation of changes and final standards review would take place in January and February. The adoption by the state board would take place in February and the finalization for school divisions would take place between March and August.

This is the second time Ballow asked the board to push back its timeline for approving its standards revisions. The first request was fully approved by the board.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who appointed Ballow to the department, has said the curriculum should prepare students for success in life and the history standards should teach the good and the bad things in the nation’s and the commonwealth’s history. Earlier this year, the governor signed an executive order to ban critical race theory in the curriculum and directed the superintendent to end policies that are inherently divisive or racist.

The governor has asked the board to consider feedback from parents, industry leaders, educators and policymakers when developing the state’s education curriculum.