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After months of public backlash, draft of revised history standards before Virginia Board of Education

Curriculum frameworks are expected to be looked at by the summer of 2023.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia state Board of Education has yet another draft revision to consider regarding its K-12 history and social studies standards of learning.

Friday morning, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow announced she had delivered a new draft document to the state Board, after the staff was tasked to merge a heavily criticized November version with past versions.

The goal is to teach students what made America "the world's exemplar of freedom and opportunity," while still being "unflinching" when it comes to teaching the darker parts of Virginia and national history.

A recently drafted November version of the standards received heavy backlash and public criticism over omissions to race and world history. 

In an hourslong public comment session, many speakers raised issue with a reference to indigenous people as "first immigrants," which Balow later apologized for as an unaccounted-for error. 

Board of Education member Anne Holton also previously raised issues over differences between the 2015 approved standards and the November draft.

"A couple of features include restoring the chronology of Kindergarten through third grade back to the 2015 standards," Balow told reporters Friday. 

Countries like Mali and China -- which appeared written out in elementary level education in 2015 -- were not referenced until the high school level in the November draft, but added back to this January draft.  

Prominent figures like Jackie Robinson and Cesar Chavez were also not mentioned in the November draft, but were added to the January draft.

"In terms of specific references that have been left out of previous drafts and administrations, specific references to various hate groups, inclusion of Hiram Revels the first African American Senator to serve in Congress from Mississippi. Those were not in previous drafts," she said. 

Here's a little "Q&A" from 13News Now's Friday interview:

Reporter Alex Littlehales: "Do you anticipate more public criticism from commenters or even lawmakers when the new, January draft combines documents that had much different scopes of work? That question is understanding the August draft was built out with the curriculum frameworks and the November draft was just the standards. But the perception has been, from those public comments you know, one document took years while the other took weeks-to-months."

Balow: "There are a lot of documents we're talking about here. But let me be clear we're talking about history and social science standards. Our charge from the board was clear: to take the November document as a base document and incorporate elements from previous documents as well as public feedback and comments from the board. that's what we did. The document sent to board members is representative not just of the last two months but input and focused input from the last couple of years, many months. We think the more voices there are, the richer these standards become. We paid careful attention to vertical alignment from grade level to grade level on richness of content, both in making sure students have fact base and knowledge base to do higher level critical thinking, and engage in the activities they're expected to engage in, if and only if they have a good content knowledge.

Do we expect criticism? Creating standards is a public process, it's always open to scrutiny and comments which is why the next step as dictated by law is to go out for public hearings."

Public hearings are expected to take place between February and March.

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