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June 18, 2009

CW urges State Board of Ed to keep K-3 history/social science SOL

In a letter to the Virginia Board of Education, Colin Campbell, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, expressed “deep concern” regarding a proposal before the State Board of Education to eliminate the history and social science Standards of Learning test for Virginia’s third grade students. The state board is to review the proposal to eliminate the third grade history and social science SOL test at a meeting later this month. The proposal includes an amendment to move the history content into the reading portion of the SOL.

Campbell urged the Department of Education to continue K-3 history and social science assessment. “It is our hope that you will maintain Virginia’s role as a national leader in history and social studies education. There is no more important legacy we can provide our children, who represent the future, than to provide them with the tools to learn from the past.”

Writing to Mark E. Emblidge, president of the Virginia Board of Education, Campbell also stated, “While we are sensitive to the financial pressures facing the Commonwealth’s public school system, we are concerned that elimination of history and social science testing, within the context of federally-mandated testing, will send the message to educators, administrators, parents and students that social studies—American history in particular—is not a core subject. We reject that notion. History and social studies are critical components of elementary education. This is where children learn the stories that shape their character as American citizens, learn about the responsibilities inherent in American citizenship, and learn the critically important lessons of what is required to forge a stronger and more vital United States.”

Colonial Williamsburg welcomes hundreds of thousands of students annually to the Historic Area. It produces and nationally distributes a series of Electronic Field Trips to more than six million students each year that are directly linked to the Standards of Learning criteria established in Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg is a leader in the development of history and social studies curricula and provides teachers with the tools and resources to more effectively teach. Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is a private, not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum.

The complete text of the letter follows:

June 17, 2009

Dear Dr. Emblidge:

As president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, I have the privilege of working with over 3,500 employees and volunteers dedicated to fulfilling the mission of helping the future learn from the past by preserving, presenting and interpreting 18th century Williamsburg, Virginia’s colonial capital. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is an educational institution—our charge is to engage, inform and inspire people to learn about this historic place, the extraordinary events that occurred here, and the diverse people who helped shape a new nation. Our principal programming theme is “Education for Citizenship,” which focuses on the fundamental role of citizen participation in a successfully functioning democracy.

Needless to say, the Foundation has more than a passing interest in the Commonwealth’s history and social studies curriculum—and how it is taught and tested—throughout Virginia’s public school systems. We are actively involved on a daily basis in a variety of endeavors which complement existing teaching practices in Virginia and across the nation. Colonial Williamsburg welcomes hundreds of thousands of school-aged visitors annually to our Historic Area, we produce and distribute nationally a series of Electronic Field Trips to more than six million students each year that are directly linked to the Standards of Learning criteria established in Virginia, we are leaders in the development of history and social studies curricula, and we provide teachers with the tools and resources to teach more effectively.

All of this underscores our deep concern regarding the proposal before the State Board of Education to eliminate the history and social science SOL testing for Virginia’s third grade students. While we are sensitive to the financial pressures facing the Commonwealth’s public school system, we are concerned that elimination of history and social science testing, within the context of federally-mandated testing, will send the message to educators, administrators, parents and students that social studies—American history in particular—is not a core subject. We reject that notion. History and social studies are critical components of elementary education. This is where children learn the stories that shape their character as American citizens, learn about the responsibilities inherent in American citizenship, and learn the critically important lessons of what is required to forge a stronger and more vital United States.

We respectfully request and urge the Department of Education to continue K-3 history and social science assessment. It is our hope that you will maintain Virginia’s role as a national leader in history and social studies education. There is no more important legacy we can provide our children, who represent the future, than to provide them with the tools to learn from the past.

With thanks for your consideration and all best wishes.

Sincerely,

Colin G. Campbell

Media Contact:
Tom Shrout
(757) 220-7265



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