Commission on African American history in Virginia presents Governor Northam recommendations

Posted at 11:59 AM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 12:00:21-04

RICHMOND- The Commission on African American History Education in the Commonwealth presented their final report Monday to Governor Ralph Northam, the Virginia Board of Education, and other key advocates for diversity and inclusion in Virginia classrooms.

The report includes the Commission’s findings and recommendations on how to improve Virginia’s history and social science standards of learning and to ensure that all teachers have the support needed for instruction.

“This unprecedented time of crisis has given all of us an opportunity to renew our focus on breaking down structural inequities and telling a more honest Virginia story in our classrooms,” said Governor Northam.

Northam says the recommendations will ensure that the Commonwealth's history standards reflect the entire state's pasts and "provide teachers with more resources to engage in anti-racist work."

In 2019, Northam signed Executive Order Thirty-Nine establishing the Commission on African American History Education in the Commonwealth.

Commission members include university professors, historians, advocates, school board members, faith leaders, and K-12 educators from across the Commonwealth.

In the report the Commission stated, "Even though Virginia led the nation in developing high quality content standards more than 25 years ago, the standards were tainted with a master narrative that marginalized or erased the presence of non-Europeans from the American landscape."

Their final recommendations to the Governor, include but not limited to:

  1. Making recommendations and technical edits for enriched standards related to African American history;
  2. Identifying how the standards can be organized and improved to ensure that African American history is a cohesive part of the teaching of all history;
  3. Revising of the full history and social studies standards review process to be more inclusive of diverse perspectives; and
  4. Recommending the addition of professional development and instructional supports to equip all educators to create and sustain culturally responsive pedagogy and gain appropriate foundational knowledge in African American history.

“The recommendations made by the Commission will result in curriculum and professional development changes that allow Virginia students to thoroughly examine and directly combat systemic racism in the Commonwealth’s history,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Students will develop greater empathy for their neighbors, and a deeper understanding of their ancestors. They will come to realize how they can be part of the solution and help create a better Virginia moving forward.”

The Commission allowed for the public to contribute to their findings with a series of public listening sessions during the spring. Approximately 300 people attended the first three listening sessions in Roanoke, Richmond, and Norfolk, but sessions in Danville and Woodbridge were canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Commission members also helped guide and review content for a new African American history course that will be available to 16 Commonwealth school divisions for the 2020-2021 school year.

In the Commission's report, the advise that the Commonwealth require a credit in African American History as a new requirement for graduation.