Members of African American History Standards Work Group say process was ‘rushed’

ORLANDO, Fla. — Just weeks after the state approved new teaching standards saying African Americans benefitted from skills learned during slavery, two members of the work group in charge of drafting the new standards are speaking out.


Two work group members say they do not agree with the wording used in the controversial standard which states “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Allison Elledge, a teacher at Flagler Palm Coast High, and Valencia Robinson, are two of 13 members in the African American history standards work group.

Both say the process to create the standards was rushed, and they’re hoping the state Department of Education allows the work group to meet again to discuss the language used in the standards.

READ: Here’s who is behind Florida’s new Black history education standards

“We were not thinking that slaves benefited from slavery. That’s not what anyone in the room was thinking,” Elledge said.

She says the work group met between February and May, but they never voted on the individual standards. Rather, Elledge says they would make recommendations, debate, and often settle to return to a standard where work group members were divided. But she says, they didn’t always return to some standards.

Elledge says the process was rushed.

READ: Task Force members say they were not asked for input on Black History standards

“With a little more time, we could have made it sound more appropriate rather than saying benefit, which quite frankly sounds terrible,” Elledge said.

In a statement, work group member Valencia Robinson, a teacher in Volusia County echoed Elledge.

“I did not approve of any language discussing ‘personal benefits’ accrued through slavery. I did not write the standard, I did not vote on it. I wasn’t even in the meeting when this happened. In fact, none of this was voted on,” Robinson said.

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Monday, teachers from across the state, sat in on a virtual webinar, to discuss the new history standards and how it should be taught in schools.

John Duebel, director of the social studies and art standards for the Florida Department of Education, says the work group will meet again between now and October. However, a spokesperson for the department says the purpose of the meeting is to incorporate the new standards into courses—not necessarily for the work group to make revisions to the new standards.

“We created them [the standards] for the public. The public has given us their feedback, and we’re just going to ignore that? That’s the problem that I have,” Elledge said.

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Elledge and Robinson say if the state allows the work group to meet again, they would like the African American History Task Force to also have a chance to review and voice their opinions on the standards. Members of task force told Channel 9 last month they never had a chance to read the standards—until it was released to the public.

There has been a lack of transparency by the Florida Department of Education around the work group, including the inner workings. Channel 9 requested the minutes of the work group meetings—records that should be public and readily available.

But now, 12 days later, we still don’t know what was discussed in the meetings, who pushed for the language in standards and who pushed back against it.

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