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Virginia's Revised K-12 History Standards

History Standards Update, April 2023:

world history

Despite a strong showing of opposition to the VDOE’s alternate merged K-12 history standards, the Virginia Board of Education released their final, nearly unchanged standards on April 18, just two days prior to a vote on April 20. The Charlottesville School Board has consistently expressed to the Virginia Board of Education that they have concerns about both these proposed standards and the BOE’s irregular process.

Statement from the Charlottesville School Board (April 19, 2023)

Dear members of the Board of Education:

On the eve of tomorrow’s vote about Virginia’s K-12 history standards, we would like to reaffirm that all our previously stated concerns about these revisions remain. We strongly oppose these standards and have logistical questions about their implementation.

In addition, as you well know, Virginians across the Commonwealth have expressed serious concerns about how the Board has set aside the state’s long-standing review processes and how the VDOE has not been transparent about the development of these proposed standards. By posting the final standards less than 48 hours before your vote, the Board of Education has exacerbated these concerns about this process and lack of transparency.

We do not support these standards or this process, and we again ask that the Board vote “no” to these revisions and publicly commit to resuming Virginia’s long-standing public review processes for future standards revisions in history and other subjects.

Thank you for your service and consideration.


James Bryant, Chair
Lashundra Bryson Morsberger, Emily Dooley, Sherry Kraft, Lisa Larson-Torres, Jennifer McKeever, Dom Morse (vice-chair)

  • On February 1 and 2, the Virginia Board of Education (BOE) plans to consider the state’s K-12 history standards. With two sets of standards up for consideration, the Charlottesville School Board strongly urges the adoption of those standards created by professional historians (the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium, or the VSSLC).

    As a recap, the typical revision process would have been for the BOE to consider and approve the updated standards recommended in August by professional historians, history teachers, and members of a public committee. Instead, Governor Youngkin’s administration delayed that vote and submitted alternate standards developed by a consultant in November. After a public outcry, the BOE requested to see merged standards. Two sets of merged standards have been submitted to the BOE — one by professional historians and history teachers, and one by the state. The standards will be considered at the BOE’s meeting February 1 and 2 ( with public comment on February 2).

  • To the members of the State Board of Education,

    We, the members of the Charlottesville School Board, are writing to urge you to adopt the recommendations and merged standards developed by the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium, or the VSSLC. These standards are developed by Virginia’s history educators, professors, and historians. Their work reflects the contributions of more than 200 stakeholders and was vetted and endorsed by some of the world’s leading historical organizations, including the American Historical Association. While these standards are collaboratively merged with those presented by Governor Youngkin’s administration, the VSSLC standards are also reflective of the original standards that were developed over the state’s own two-year, transparent process that included feedback from many groups, including parents.

    As for the VDOE’s proposed merged standards, we share the concerns that state and national historians and teachers have already raised. The state’s draft merged standards are marked by:

    • A process that has diverted from longstanding, well-documented practices. Instead of following its usual approval routines, the state announced a new, opaque process that prioritizes the voices of a few outside consultants and organizations over the two-year, public work of Virginia’s own teachers, historians, and families.
    • Content that is not developmentally appropriate, such as shifting from high school to second grade the task of understanding the state’s Latin motto and flag, which requires an exploration of political violence that is ill-suited to elementary students.
    • An overload of content that would prioritize rote learning instead of critical thinking, with 132 new facts to memorize. We ask, Do most adults know the name of John Tyler’s wife? (It’s Letitia Christian Tyler.) Does memorizing her name support our fourth-graders’ growth as learners?
    • Content that is still riddled with errors and which omits key content areas. For example, this curriculum erroneously teaches students that our American history begins only when European explorers arrived on the continent. We urge you to read even a brief compilation of what would be removed from our students’ learning experiences, from the role of fascism in World War II to the use of modern tools such as GIS technology in teaching geography.
    • Disruptive course sequence changes, or changing the grade levels at which entire courses are taught. The sequence changes have no pedagogical value, have not been vetted by Virginia educational leaders, and would cause significant upheaval for school staffing, student scheduling, and state assessments. Their financial costs have not been determined or budgeted. The lack of transparency and planning around the impacts of these course changes should disqualify the state’s standards for possible approval.

    The above is a summary of what national historians have said about the state’s proposed merged standards. Further, even the consultant who authored state’s alternative standards acknowledged that she did not have enough time for the task, calling the VDOE’s November standards “hastily prepared,” “deeply flawed,” and “in no way ready for the board’s review.” As is clear from experts’ review of the state’s current version, the VDOE’s current draft is still highly problematic, with an overstuffed set of merged standards that are still riddled with errors, omissions, and sequencing problems. If Governor Youngkin’s administration wishes to do a wholesale revision of Virginia’s history standards, his appointees will need to take their time, engage with experts, and offer public review and feedback – in other words, they should follow the state’s own process for revising the standards.

    Governor Youngkin has reminded us that everyone engaged in this work has a shared goal, “to teach our history, the good and the bad.” As we make progress on this goal, let’s trust Virginia’s teachers and historians – the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium – to lead the way.

    Charlottesville City School Board
    James Bryant, Chair
    Lashundra Bryson Morsberger
    Emily Dooley
    Sherry Kraft
    Lisa Larson-Torres
    Jennifer McKeever
    Dom Morse, Vice-Chair

  • The Virginia Board of Education will vote whether to accept for consideration the state’s draft standards on February 2, followed by public review and a pending final vote to adopt these standards.

    If a merged document is to be selected for Virginia’s K-12 history standards, then Charlottesville City Schools supports the work and recommendations of professional historians and teachers (the VSLLC), which continue to prioritize telling a diverse and responsible history.

    Want to share your voice?
    Email comments to,,, and

    Want to learn more about the merged standards proposed by the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium (VSSLC)?
    The Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium (VSSLC) is an organization of social studies specialists, college educators, museum professionals, social studies education non-profit professionals, and representatives from the Virginia Department of Education. They represent all regions of Virginia. In collaboration with the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the American Historical Association, the VSSLC has released a merged set of K-12 history standards to the Virginia Board of Education, drawing both from the originally proposed standards (in August) and the alternative standards proposed by the Youngkin administration (in November). While drawing ideas from the Youngkin administration’s document, this merged document is fully committed to telling a diverse, complete, responsible history.

  • December 1, 2022

    To the members of the State Board of Education,

    We, the members of the Charlottesville School Board, are writing to request that the Board return to its usual process of consideration and approval of the state’s K-12 history standards as developed and recommended in August 2022 by history educators, professors, historians, parents, and others. We strongly encourage the VDOE to stay the course on its longstanding commitment to developing a more inclusive and honest curriculum.

    The “August” Revisions

    Throughout 2020-22, our Commonwealth trusted a committee of history educators, historians, museum professionals, parents, and community groups to conduct the scheduled seven-year revision of our state history standards. Over the course of two years, in a very public fashion, this committee made thoughtful and informed decisions. In addition, this work built upon the efforts and recommendations of Virginia’s 2020 African American History Education Commission. We would like the Board to follow its usual procedures to consider and then adopt these standards.

    The “November” Alternate Standards

    By contrast, the surprise alternate standards announced by the Youngkin administration on a Friday night in November were hastily developed by a consultant without public input and without the participation of the VDOE subject-area experts.This led to a number of ill-informed recommendations, such as omitting African American history to such a degree that not even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was included in the original version. The idea that Virginia’s indigenous tribes and communities would be portrayed as “immigrants” is also inaccurate and offensive. Units of study about ancient China and Mali were both removed from the K-5 curriculum. These errors and omissions underscore the haste of the process, the lack of public review, and the political motivation to prioritize White, European perspectives. After the Board correctly rejected these November standards, there is now a consideration of merging the August and November standards, but a quick mash-up of the two sets will not lead to a thoughtful or cohesive curriculum.

    A Shared Goal to Teach Our Whole History

    The Governor has stated that his goal is “to teach our history, the good and the bad.” As parents, teachers, and students have recently shared in public comment, Virginians agree that our students should be learning whole-truth history that explores multiple perspectives and experiences. The best way to do that is to consider and adopt the original August recommendations and to follow the VDOE’s own time-honored approval processes.

    This past spring in Charlottesville, a group of fourth-grade students at Clark Elementary explored our own schools’ desegregation story and then wrote letters to members of the Charlottesville 12, those Black students who bravely integrated all-white schools in 1959. As part of the students’ letters, one common theme emerged: “It was hard to learn this history, but I am glad we did.” Please take the steps to assure that Virginia’s students continue to have access to a curriculum that is challenging but rewarding, one that builds understanding, empathy, and a sense of connectedness to the people of our past, present, and future. Thank you for your service!

    Charlottesville City School Board

    Lisa Larson-Torres, Chair
    James Bryant, Vice-Chair
    Lashundra Bryson Morsberger
    Emily Dooley
    Sherry Kraft
    Jennifer McKeever
    Dom Morse

  • On Friday night, November 11, 2022, Gov. Youngkin’s administration released an alternate set of proposed history standards for K-12 students in Virginia. The governor’s proposed new standards would replace the draft learning standards developed by state and local social studies leaders, community groups, parents, social studies teachers, university professors, museum specialists, and historians  in August 2022. The August standards were created over a two-year process, and social studies leaders consider the August version of the social studies standards to be more inclusive and more aligned with teaching whole truth history.

    By contrast, some have described Gov. Youngkin’s standards as regressive in nature and Eurocentric. Historians, history leaders, and community members have accused the Youngkin administration of “whitewashing” in the alternate standards made this November. For instance, Gov. Youngkin’s new standards remove the curriculum changes that were implemented as part of the 2020 African American History Education Commission. Additionally, the November standards removed all Mali and Ancient China from the Elementary standards. Indigenous communities across the state have spoken against the new standards referring to indigenous groups as “the nation’s first immigrants.” Critics say that in addition to taking a step backwards towards yesteryear’s history standards, the Youngkin administration is not following best practices for transparency, adhering to previous approval processes, or allowing adequate time for review.

    Following an outcry at a public hearing on Thursday, the Virginia Board of Education has asked for a slow-down to the process. They have requested that the Youngkin administration revise their draft standards, and they have requested a comparison chart for (A) the existing 2015 standards, (B) the August revisions recommended by historians and social studies leaders, and (C) the standards proposed by the Youngkin administration. The Board’s request to combine the Youngkin standards with previous state standards fell short of some critics’ request to simply return to the August 2022 recommendations of historians/history teachers. There will be additional review processes to come. The Board is anticipated to vote on the revisions sometime this winter.

    For clarity, the history standards are updated at least every seven years, and most revisions are put out for public comment and then approved (sometimes with corrections or edits) by the Virginia Board of Education.


    2015: Virginia’s K-12 history standards updated
    2020: African American History Education Commission (AAHEC) makes recommendations for more inclusive history, which are then incorporated.
    August 2022: Historians/history teachers make their recommended 7-year updates to the standards, maintaining and expanding the recommendations of the AAHEC
    Fall 2022: Youngkin administration delays approval of the 7-year update
    Nov 11, 2022: Youngkin administration  releases alternative history standards created by the Youngkin administration and paid consultants and sets aside usual processes
    Nov 17, 2022: After outcry at public hearing, Virginia Board of Education slows down the approval process for the Youngkin administration’s standards, asks for revisions to the Youngkin standards, and requests comparison chart showing the 2015 standards, the historians’ proposed 2022 revisions, and the Youngkin administration’s alternative standards

    This page gives links to recent reporting and statements about the process, as well as some action steps for people to give feedback about the process or the Governor’s proposed history standards.

  • Dear Board of Education members–

    We, the Charlottesville School Board, are writing to reaffirm our deep reservations about the VDOE’s proposed merged K-12 history standards. Aside from the concerns we have previously raised with these new standards, the resignation of Mrs. Balow as state superintendent underscores our very pragmatic concern that the VDOE is not equipped to successfully roll out such sweeping changes. Additionally, the ongoing delays and varied announcements from the state have caused confusion and uncertainty.

    Previous Concerns with VDOE Proposed Merged Standards
    We – and historians and teachers across the state and country – have been clear with our concerns about the VDOE’s proposed merged standards. These concerns include: a flawed process, developmentally inappropriate content, an overload of content, the prioritization of rote learning, errors and omissions in the content, and the disruptive course sequence changes. The most recent draft did not sufficiently address these concerns. The Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium (VSSLC) and others have done strong work in reviewing this draft and proposing corrections (which we endorse), but the sheer number of corrections needed shows that these VDOE proposed merged standards are still very far from ready.

    Concerns about Implementation
    In light of the still-needed revisions and the announced resignation of the VDOE’s leader, we have concerns about the feasibility of the VDOE implementation timeline. We are now seven months behind schedule on adopting revised standards, and the VDOE’s proposed draft recommends complex changes – the January draft calls for changing the grade levels at which entire courses are taught. Neither the financial costs (for developing new SOL tests, etc.) nor the required implementation time have been determined, with the clock ticking for an August 2024 start. The departure from established processes, the ongoing delays, and the continued state of flux have broken public trust in this process and have caused uncertainty about where the VDOE will land on the final standards.

    Recommendations Moving Forward
    With much work ahead of us, we see a number of possible paths forward that would restore confidence and provide much-needed clarity. These options include: 

    • Retaining the current 2015 standards as reviewed but not revised.
    • Approving the August revisions as submitted by the state’s own advisory board, which offer only minor improvements to what is currently in place and for which public comment was already received; 
    • Seeking public comment on the merged standards proposed by the VSSLC in December; 
    • Announcing that you will adopt the revisions recommended by the VSSLC and follow its larger recommendations, such as committing to restoring the usual approval processes for revising standards. 

    The Charlottesville School Board would strongly support any of these courses of action. Thank you for your time and service.


    James Bryant, Chair
    Lashundra Bryson Morsberger, Emily Dooley, Sherry Kraft, Lisa Larson-Torres, Jennifer McKeever, Dom Morse (vice-chair)

Want to Give Feedback?

Complete the online feedback form.  For more information about the VDOE merged standards, you may wish to review the concerns of the Charlottesville School Board or the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium. A new area of concern is the announced retirement of Mrs. Jillian Balow as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, who would have overseen the significant changes required by these proposed VDOE history standards.

Links to Reporting and Draft Standards

Want to Share Your Voice? Consider These Steps

  1. Stay tuned with this process.

  2. As developments emerge, you can email comments to, and