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Five simple ways you can show love for Richmond Public Schools right now

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This fall marks my tenth year teaching elementary art in Richmond Public Schools. The past decade has been a crazy ride with constant shifts in leadership and a pervasive feeling that we are barely keeping our heads above water. Regardless of this, I continue to believe that I am right where I belong and that my work allows me to truly live out my values. I know firsthand how hard the teachers in RPS work and how much they give despite the challenges we face. I also know how awesome our students are and how much many of them have to overcome on a daily basis.

This fall is also my second year as a parent of an RPS student and I am so thankful for the love my child experienced last year in Kindergarten and for his enthusiasm for learning and school. I know that the Richmond community wants to see things get better so that ALL of our children can experience this joy and support in our public school system.

If you feel like I feel, there are many ways to help, right now. Richmond native, Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Join me and so many others as we shift the negative narrative about Richmond Public Schools and allow our values to speak through our choices and actions. Thanks for giving your love, Richmond!

1. #CleartheList

Many teachers have created Amazon wishlists and are using social media to share their needs for the school year. (I’m updating mine today!) The hashtag #clearthelist is trending this summer as many celebrities are endorsing this movement to provide teachers with classroom supplies. This whole thing was actually started by a Virginia teacher this July through a facebook page that went viral.

2. Donors Choose

You may have already heard about the website, Donors Choose, which allows teachers to create requests for funding of supplies, projects, professional development and even classroom trips or visitors. It’s super easy to use and you can search by city or zip code to find live projects. Often there are matching funds available through organizations.

3. RPS Shines

Local volunteer organization, Hands on Greater Richmond, has partnered with Richmond Public Schools to organize volunteers this summer for the second annual RPS Shines initiative. There are opportunities for community members to sign up and come out for a three hour shift to beautify schools before the students return in a few weeks. My son and I will be helping out at our school this Wednesday. Giving time is a great way to help if you can’t give money.

4. STAY RVA

Supporting Together Area Youth (STAY) RVA is a movement comprised of parents and neighbors who want to help Richmond’s local public schools thrive. We are a positive-minded, solution-oriented, action-based organization. We want you to be a part of STAY… STAY in the city, STAY committed, STAY open-minded. We want to build communities of support around every school and engage in honest conversations about why schools have not had the resources they need. We want to BECOME genuine community members who work to form relationships with all people.

5. The Ultimate Backpack

The goal of The Ultimate Backpack is to fill 15,000 backpacks before the school year starts. The Ultimate Backpack presented by CoStar Group school supply and backpack drive will take place on August 14, 2019 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m..at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Ownby Lane in Richmond. Participants can drop off donated backpacks or any school supplies from the supply list below to Hardywood Brewery (Downtown). You can make a monetary donation and we will purchase the needed supplies. These donations will help us purchase school supplies at a discount and fill any gaps not covered by the community. Please contact Timmy Nguyen at VCU if you have any questions.

Needed school supplies include:

  • Composition notebooks
  • Crayons
  • Erasers
  • Folders
  • Glue stick
  • Highlighter
  • Loose leaf paper
  • Markers
  • Pen & pencils
  • Pencil pouch
  • Scissors (blunt tip)
  • Spiral notebooks

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Community

Bike the Holiday Lights

BASKET & BIKE and RVA on Wheels want to share the joy of bike riding in the city during this festive time of year.

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From now until January 8th there is a unique way to check out the holiday lights in Richmond. BASKET & BIKE and RVA on Wheels have teamed up to provide Richmond with a variety of tour experiences and rentals on wheels, and they will serve as your go-to place to test and purchase your new classic or electric bike, along with all the gear to outfit your bike style.

We’ll bike Downtown Richmond while the sun’s still out to stay warm! Chase the sunset with us on the avenues and bike lanes for a seasonal ride on classic or electric wheels. As dusk approaches, pass through holiday lights downtown where your tour ends with a voucher for a beverage (wine, beer, tea, coffee) at neighbors, Urban Farmhouse.

BASKET & BIKE Classic Bike $95
RVA on Wheels Electric Bike $125
Starts and Ends at 1301 E. Cary St.
Website and more Info

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Community

Street Closures for RVA Illuminates

Street closures on East Canal Street, South 7th Street and South 8th Street are already in place.

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Downtown

Missing context, political bias: Some of critics’ objections to Virginia’s new history standards

A number of groups are questioning new history and social science standards proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration ahead of a Board of Education meeting to begin reviewing them Thursday.

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A number of groups are questioning new history and social science standards proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration ahead of a Board of Education meeting to begin reviewing them Thursday.

Critics from diverse communities and lawmakers, most recently in a Nov. 15 letter to the governor and school officials, argue the new standards are missing influential figures and events and voice concern about what they say is a lack of transparency regarding who authored the changes.

The standards will set Virginia’s expectations for student learning in history and social science, which are assessed through the Standards of Learning tests. The Board of Education delayed its first review after Superintendent Jillian Balow requested additional time to correct errors, reorder guidance and allow additional experts to weigh in on the draft.

“Continued review and edits to the standards over the past several months have strengthened the content at each grade level,” wrote Balow in a Nov. 10 letter to the Board of Education. “The edits honor the work done previously by Virginians, and national and state experts.”

Balow also said in her letter that draft curriculum frameworks, which are guides for teachers, will be published later.

However, critics in the Nov. 15 letter said the curriculum frameworks missing from the standards make it “impossible for anybody to effectively evaluate the draft as a whole.”

Among the letter’s signatories are 10 Democratic lawmakers and groups including the Virginia Education Association, the nonprofit Hamkae Center, which describes itself as organizing “Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice in Virginia,” the Fairfax County NAACP and the Sikh Coalition. The Virginia Education Association referred inquiries to the Hamkae Center.

They also questioned the number of “problematic content changes that fail to reflect the concerns of our diverse communities” and the involvement of groups such as the Michigan based-Hillsdale College in the review of the standards.

Balow said last month that representatives from other colleges expressed interest in commenting on the draft standards after VPM reported that she was working with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative educational think tank, to develop the standards.

Here are a few objections to the proposed new standards that educational and other groups have raised.

Missing context

Critics say parts of the new standards lack proper context.

For example, while the standards replace the term “Indian” with “Indigenous people” and require students to study aspects of the groups, they do not mention that Indigenous People’s Day replaced Columbus Day in 1992 because Indigenous people view Christopher Columbus as a colonizer rather than a discoverer.

Additionally, the standards recognize the development of slavery in colonial Virginia but lack an emphasis on the slave trade and tobacco plantations, critics say.

“Nazis” and “The Final Solution,” which are necessary to understand the Holocaust, are also missing from the standards.

“Content is crucial for understanding the Holocaust and other genocides,” said Gail Flax, a retired educator. “You have to know what happened before and what happened afterward to be able to analyze and contextualize history.”

Narrative

With the removal of historical figures and events, critics have questioned the narrative of history the administration is conveying to students.

Zowee Aquino of the Hamkae Center said the revisions reflect “pretty explicit political bias.” She said the standards also have a Eurocentric theme that focuses on European or Anglo-American ideas and disregards the contributions of ethnic minorities in white countries.

For example, the name of Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist, was removed from the elementary school standards. King’s name first appears in the sixth grade standards.

Aquino said there’s no mention of Juneteenth, the Chinese Exclusion Act or Martin Luther King Jr. Day in any of the standards. China and the African civilization of Mali, which have been part of the standards for world culture studies, have also been removed from third grade standards.

The standards also do not include any mention of tribal sovereignty.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said in a letter to the Board of Education that the revised draft deletes “major components of our history and deliberately omits the diverse perspectives that shape our commonwealth and our nation.”

For example, she wrote that the draft omits any discussion of the history or modern-day culture of the Latino community, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders or the LGBTQ community.

“These decisions would mean that hundreds of thousands of Virginia children would not have the opportunity to learn about their community’s contributions to the fabric and history of our nation,” McClellan wrote. “And, all Virginia students would lack a fuller understanding of our country’s history.”

Rejected recommendations

The inclusion of King, the national holiday for the civil rights leader and Juneteenth marking the day when all enslaved Africans became free were several edits recommended by the Virginia Commission on African American History Education, but excluded or generalized in the redraft.

The list of edits excluded include the mention of John Mercer Langston, the first African American congressman from Virginia. The commission’s recommendation that the standards include the phrase that “not everyone was considered a citizen when our country began, and for a long time after that, even until today” was also excluded.

Mention of Indigenous people and their culture being affected by white European colonization was also excluded from the standards, as was the phrase “the Virginia Colony’s economy was greatly dependent upon temporary and permanent servitude.”

Historical errors and inaccuracies

Critics also say the proposed standards have historical errors and inaccuracies.

Specifically, students starting in the fourth grade are required to explain the reasons for the relocation of Virginia’s capital from Jamestown to Williamsburg as part of the Revolutionary War. However, an email from the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium Monday said “this makes absolutely no sense” given Virginia’s capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond to provide greater protection against British attack.

Additionally, the group says the standards erroneously convey that Zachary Taylor, who was elected in 1848, was the most recent president from Virginia instead of Woodrow Wilson, who was elected in 1912.

The standards do not explicitly say which president was most recent. The document only states that students starting in the fourth grade will be required to explain the growth of a new America with an emphasis on the role of Virginians by explaining Virginia’s prominence in national leadership, emphasizing its eight presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Zachary Taylor.

“The previous version of the proposed standards did not contain egregious historical errors such as this because they were developed by a team of educators, division leaders and historians,” the consortium wrote.

Age appropriateness

Aquino also questioned whether the revisions are age appropriate.

For example, first and third graders must learn about the Code of Hammurabi, an ancient law text, and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, under the proposed history standards. She said the history is “pretty dense and intense” and includes details about capital punishment.

However, Charles Pyle, a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Education, said under the standards, first graders will learn where the first civilizations began and third graders will learn about democracy. He said Aurelius is part of a list of suggested examples of mythical and historical figures students could encounter as they “hear, read, and retell stories.”

Open access

With the focus on the amount of work demanded of teachers due to the workforce shortage, critics question a sentence in the preface of the history standards that states teachers should provide all of their instructional materials to parents.

Under the Board of Education’s current regulations, parents have the right to inspect instructional materials used as part of the educational curriculum for students.

Aquino said many reports link teacher burnout with increased work demands and argued another mandate does not help support students.

“It’s a huge task that the new administration is asking them to take on that doesn’t improve instruction,” Aquino said.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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