Commission to tackle African-American history education

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Three local people have been appointed to a new state commission on African-American history education.

Governor Ralph Northam recently announced the new commission will review Virginia's history standards and instructional practices, content and resources that are currently used to teach African-American history.

"Virginia is the birthplace of our country, and it is so fitting that our Commonwealth would lead the way in these efforts," said Charlottesville Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins, who is one of the people appointed to the commission. "When I look at the makeup of the commission and the individuals the governor has selected, I feel really honored to be able to work with such talented people who are so passionate about understanding and teaching students about American's total history."

The commission was established by an executive order Northam signed during a ceremony to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in mainland North America at Point Comfort in 1619.

"The full history of Virginia is complex, contradictory, and often untold, and we must do a better job of making sure that every Virginia graduate enters adult life with an accurate and thorough understanding of our past, and the pivotal role that African-Americans have played in building and perfecting our Commonwealth," said Northam. "The important work of this commission will help ensure that Virginia's standards of learning are inclusive of African-American history and allow students to engage deeply, drawing connections between historic racial inequities and their continuous influence on our communities today."

The other two people with local ties are Derrick P. Alridge, a professor of education and director of the Center for Race and Public Education in the South at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Human Development, and Fluvanna County resident Anne Marie Evans, who is the director of Education and Outreach - New American History at the University of Richmond.

Other appointees are coming from Richmond, Fredericksburg, Prince William County, Chesterfield, Hampton, Moseley, Bedford, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, Woodbridge, Henrico, Roanoke, Chesapeake, Loudoun County, Halifax, Farmville and other places across the Commonwealth.

The executive order has tasked this commission with issuing a report by July 1, 2020 that will include recommendations for improving the student experience.

This could include technical edits and recommendations for enriched standards related to African-American history, broader consideration for the full history and social studies standards review process, and professional development and instructional support for teachers to ensure culturally competent instruction.

Virginia first created its history and social science standards of learning in 1995 and has routinely updated them based on feedback from historians, stakeholders and practitioners.

The work of this commission is expected to help inform the new review Virginia will undertake of these standards.

The Virginia Department of Education will also be working with Virtual Virginia, WHRO Public Media, and committees of history and social science educators, university historians, and college professors to create a new Africa-American history course for high school students.

This new, elective course should be available to all student in Virginia online by the fall of 2020.

For more information on the commission, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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