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Virginia Secretary of Education talks data, history at JMU

Aimee Guidera, right, was appointed Virginia's Secretary of Education in December 2021 by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. She spoke at JMU with
Randi B. Hagi
Aimee Guidera, right, was appointed Virginia's Secretary of Education in December 2021 by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. She spoke at JMU with University President Jonathan Alger.

Virginia's Secretary of Education, Aimee Guidera, visited James Madison University on Tuesday for a discussion with University President Jonathan Alger. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

About 200 people gathered in Wilson Hall to hear Guidera speak on making data-backed decisions in education and the importance of ideological diversity.

Guidera referenced the state's new history and social science standards, which were adopted last April and go into effect in the 2025-26 school year. Competing drafts submitted by conservative advocacy groups and educator and historian coalitions led to months of contention, but Guidera lauded the final outcome.

AIMEE GUIDERA: You might have heard that we white-washed history, but I'll tell you a couple things. … For the first time ever, Virginia students will learn that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. For the first time ever, students will be taught about lynching, both in the fifth grade and the 11th grade … and for the first time ever, we will talk about Fort Monroe as being the point where enslaved Africans showed up on North American soil.

The new fourth and fifth grade standards describe slavery as "the cause" and "primary cause" of the Civil War. The 11th grade standards have students evaluate the role of slavery as one of the conflicts leading to war. And the subject of lynching is included in the new U.S. History II curriculum, taught in either 6th or 7th grade. It was previously included in the detailed framework of the 2015 version, under the standard about racial segregation.

Guidera also said her office has asked Virginia's colleges to review their admissions process, as some institutions, including Yale and MIT, have chosen to reinstate SAT and ACT test score requirements.

GUIDERA: Because the data is showing that it's an important measure of success, and more important than grades and class rank … with better results for predicting success in college.

She said tests are often seen as "hammers" when they should be considered "flashlights."

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.