Using Standards Based Grading in Social Studies (Portfolio #8)

The goal of the portfolio is threefold: to document some of the work I did this past year, to take the time to reflect and learn, and to share with the larger community I am lucky to have through this blog.  I will be posting a portfolio entry a day until it’s done.  There are eight entries, one for each year of my career thus far.  Questions, comments, and thoughts are always greatly appreciated, but are even more so for this.  Previous entries are here.

Other than two angry reactionary pieces that got picked up by the press (why is that the case?), the most read piece I’ve written was Implementing Standards-Based Grading (SBG) in My Social Studies, Finally a year ago.  I’m updating that post here.  

Last year, I went 100% SBG in my senior Social Studies course, which combines government and economics.  All my courses at my new school will also using SBG.

Background

I wrote a whole series (scroll down to the bottom) on my plan to do a form of Standards Based Grading in my history class two years ago, and updated my plan last year.  Before this year, I had three major problems, two of which I knew going in, one which I realized very quickly:

  1. In a survey history course that ends in a high-stakes, content-based exam, it is necessary to track how students do with all content, and one is never going to be able to write standards for, let alone reassess, 200 different pieces of content.
  2. As I wrote two years ago, the history skill standards that I was aware of at the time are not written with performance in mind, and were very difficult to assess.
  3. The problem that emerged immediately was that I hadn’t planned my course with SBG in mind, so the standards I planned on using were not really useful for assessment.  They were also the wrong standards/enduring understandings for what I ended up teaching, because I never went back and made sure the Stage 1 stuff from UbD aligned with the Stage 3 stuff (see this post on that issue)

Changes Made for Last Year

I went in better prepared.  I had a clear list of historical skills standards from the brilliant Daisy Martin, who does the Reading Like a Historian work out of Stanford, which gave me a ton of clarity on what historical skill standards should look like so they can be used to assess student performance.  Two other teachers at Young Writers were also doing SBG, allowing me to plan using SBG from day 1.

For everyone in the pilot, there were three categories of standards: Unit Goals, Essential Skills, and Citizenship.  Somewhat arbitrarily, the units will made up 45% of the grade, Essential Skills were 45%, and Citizenship the remaining 10%. Here is one example of a standard for the year:

LG A: Argument – I can create effective written or oral arguments

SWBAT construct arguments that integrate and evaluate multiple perspectives, explanations, or causations, including counterclaims

SWBAT develop controlling ideas that clearly address prompts or fulfill assignments

SWBAT support their ideas using explanation of evidence

At the start of the year, I had 4-7 Unit Goals for each unit, 12 Essential Skills for the year, and 3 Citizenship Goals.

Unit Goals included skills or content, depending on the unit. For the most part, they were content heavy goals.  For example, the learning goals for my final unit on Financial Planning & Investing were: “Financial Planning: I can make a successful long term financial plan for myself” and “Economic Decision Making: I can analyze economic decisions in terms of risk/reward over short/long terms.”  However, my Project Citizen unit focused on research, with students working on a wide variety of content.  The goals for that unit were: “Governmental Decision Making: I can explain the short and long term effects of governmental decisions,” “Research: I can find reliable and useful information” and “Citing: I can cite information properly.”

The Citizenship Goals remained the same the entire year (Timeliness, Growth, Supportiveness).  I wrote the following last year, and stand by it even stronger now:

I know there are a lot of people using SBG who do not feel these aspects should be part of students’ grades, but I feel like most of these people teach in more privileged communities where most students know how to and are able to do these things.  It is very important for my students to get explicit feedback on these aspects of their performance so they can improve them.  With that said, no one will fail the course because they turn things in late.

I taught seniors last year, and 10% was an appropriate amount for this part of their grade.  In teaching 9th graders next year, I plan to increase it.

Certain large assignments were designated “Must Complete” assignments.  It didn’t matter what students have demonstrated from other assignments, they will not be eligible for credit without completing the large projects for the course.

It’s NYC policy that every student receives a number grade at the end of each semester.  Students received these grades using some form of a Bump & Space grading system.

Changes Made During the Year

I did not make any significant changes to the structure as the year went on, but I learned a very important lesson: you can only really teach to a small handful of skill based performance standards.  Yes, you can assess students for twelve different key skills during the year.  However, the main power of SBG is that it gives both teachers AND students clarity on how they are doing, which informs instruction and opportunities for practice within the class.  Here is the most important lesson I learned this year:

IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE WILLING TO EXPLICITLY TEACH, ASSESS, RETEACH, AND REASSESS A SKILL MULTIPLE TIMES THROUGHOUT THE UNIT OR YEAR, IT SHOULDN’T BE A LEARNING GOAL FOR SBG.

For example, nearly every assignment students did involved creating an argument of some form.  Creating an argument was a foundation of my class, and therefore, it was a good standard. On the other hand, “Oral Communication” while important and something students were doing regularly, was not something I was frequently teaching students how to do, nor assessing, and therefore was not a good standard to have.  This does not mean I should not have had students work to improve their oral communication, it just meant it did not need to be part of the formal feedback I gave students through grades.

I started the year with twelve key skills I planned on assessing throughout the year.  I finished the year using only six (Argument, Using Evidence, Sourcing, Content, Written Organization & Clarity, Complexity, and Audience).

Similarly, my first unit had five learning goals.  All subsequent units had 2-3.

For Next Year

I am in the unique position of creating a school, and the school has certain structures that will enable SBG (we have yet to decide if SBG will be mandatory for all teachers, or just strongly encouraged).

To this end, the school has four Habits of Mind that will be explicitly assessed in every course in the school: Evidence, Connections, Perspective, & Voice.

Each department crafted a list of transfer goals.  For each semester, teachers will focus on 1-3 of these goals.  For the Social Studies department, are goals are:

  1. (a) Students will be able to develop questions that help them understand problems in the world, and (b) be able to find and evaluate sources of information that allow them to answer the question
  2. Students can critically evaluate events, claims, decisions, and issues in their moment based on their knowledge of the past and present
  3. Students will have the tools to participate actively and effectively as informed citizens of a representative democracy.

Therefor, there will be 5-7 Essential Skills for each semester (4 Habits + 1-3 Transfer Goals), which will be relatively uniform within each department.  Each course will then have 2-4 additional goals for each major unit, where appropriate.

Why This Can Work for Me, but Might Not for You

I wrote the following last year:

The most important reason this can work is because there is very limited specific content I worry about my students learning this year.  I am focusing on depth over breath.  While I think SBG could work in a survey history course, I’m not sure there’s  reason for it, given the need for 200-400 learning goals.  The same would be true for a traditional government or economics course.  I am probably doing half of the content that one normally would in these courses, but doing so in much more depth so that my students can really develop the skills they will need as citizens and in order to be successful in college.  I am willing to have my students not be able to explain the entire process for how a bill becomes a law in exchange for them knowing how to research a policy, and to take action based on that research.

I stand by that, and am lucky to create a school where we will not need to worry about it.  With that said, I think the value of SBG for students outweighs the challenges a survey course presents.  The next time I teach a survey course, I will add “Content Knowledge” to the categories of Essential Skills, Unit Goals, and Citizenship.  This category will use more traditional grading, and will count for 20-40% of a students’ grade.

Reflection on School Year Goals #3

At the beginning of the year, I set a number of goals for myself, one of which was to reflect on said goals every two months. My third set of reflections are in italics below.

Teaching 

I will improve the way I give feedback to students.  Formally, I hope to develop a system to give students feedback about writing that meaningfully a) tells students where they are, b) what they need to do to improve and c) is efficient enough that I can provide frequent and timely feedback to all students.  I also need to make sure I am giving informal feedback more frequently to all students.  (I hope that moving to a Standards Based Grading system will enable these things to happen organically).

Now that I’m essentially 3/4 of the way through the year, and as most of my thinking turns to school-wide structures for next year, I am more and more excited about the use of SBG to help students know where they are and what they need to do to improve. With that said, I also have become aware of some of the limitations of how I implemented SBG in my social studies class. SBG has really helped my students understand what they need to do to improve individual assignments, but they are still struggling with how to improve overall.  I think a lot of this has to do with the number of goals, particularly for the year.  Twelve goals for the year was too many, especially as some (Imagination, Questioning, Revision, Reflection) only come up on rare or isolated assignments.  I would also rethink the goals of Sourcing and Evidence, combining and changing them to be “Selection of Evidence” and “Use of Evidence.”

I am doing a better job of more frequent informal oral feedback, but have struggled to get informal written feedback to students in a useful manner. 

Students will have multiple opportunities to rethink and revise their answers to large essential questions throughout each unit, and will also reflect on and revise all major work.

This goal is getting better. Students had opportunities to workshop and revise persuasive speeches, and there is lots of time for revisions built in to our current Project Citizenship work.

Leadership
The Social Studies Critical Friends Group will meet once a month, and will be valuable for its participants.

The group gets better and better with every meeting, and the core group of ten (eight original members, and two wonderful additions) are reaching new heights together.  There will be a longer post on this in the near future, and I’m planning a session for EdCamp Social Studies to share with more people.

Advisory
100% of my new advisees will either graduate or earn at least ten credits by June.

All fourteen are on pace with credits, and my advisory did particularly well on Regents, so this goal is looking very good.

100% of my advisees will be accepted to college, and will have a plan to pay for it or whatever else they choose to do next year.

At this point, nearly all have been accepted somewhere, but we have not yet started on having plans to pay for it.  I think this will happen in April.

Personal / Professional Development 
At least once per week, I will write and publish a piece of writing about teaching social studies, be it about my practice or teaching in general.

Back on pace, and doing more writing than I’ve done since my first year of blogging now that I’m not on Twitter.  

Every two months, I will write and publish a self-evaluation of how I am doing on these goals.

Check. Check. Check

Implementing Standards-Based Grading in my Social Studies Class, Finally

7/12/12- I wrote a new version of this, which contains better ideas.  Please read that instead.

This year, I am going 100% SBG in my senior Social Studies course, which combines government and economics.

Background

I wrote a whole series (scroll down to the bottom) on my plan to do a form of Standards Based Grading in my history class last year.  It sort of happened, sort of didn’t.  I was thinking about SBG, but the experience for my students did not change: they still saw grades for individual assignments, though there were performance standards attached to writing assignments.  There were three major problems, two of which I knew going in, one which I realized very quickly:

  1. In a survey history course that ends in a high-stakes, content-based exam, it is necessary to track how students do with all content, and one is never going to be able to write standards for, let alone reassess, 200 different pieces of content.
  2. As I wrote last year, the history skill standards that I was aware of at the time are not written with performance in mind, and were very difficult to assess.
  3. The problem that emerged immediately was that I hadn’t planned my course with SBG in mind, so the standards I planned on using were not really useful for assessment.  They were also the wrong standards/enduring understandings for what I ended up teaching, because I never went back and made sure the Stage 1 stuff from UbD aligned with the Stage 3 stuff (see this recent post on that issue)

Changes for This Year

This year, there are four factors which are game changers and make me know I can actually do this right this year:

  1. I started working on a project with the brilliant Daisy Martin, who does the Reading Like a Historian work out of Stanford, who gave me a ton of clarity on what historical skill standards should look like so they can be used to assess student performance.
  2. Most importantly, my new school started a SBG pilot, that the 11th and 12th grade math and science teachers, as well as the art teacher, are participating in.  They already had a structure in place which solves some problems for me, and keeps me from having to figure things out myself.  The clarity provided by the design of the pilot makes my life easier.
  3. Because I knew of the pilot and had the structure in mind, I was planning as an SBG assessor from the moment I started conceiving my course, thereby correcting the second issue above.
  4. My unit plans, at least the first one so far, fully align Understandings, Assessment, and Instruction, the three stages of UbD.

What it Will Look Like

Everyone in the pilot was told to write learning goals that start as “I can” statements for students, along with teacher friendly indicators of performance.  Examples follow below. Continue reading Implementing Standards-Based Grading in my Social Studies Class, Finally

Woodcarving: Crafting Enduring Understandings

My course is starting to reveal its form. And while of course I imagine a lot of what I decide now in Stage 1 of planning will be revised as I progress to later stages, it seems that the course is going to have 5 main units:

  1. A unit that looks at Media Literacy and Identity
  2. A unit that looks at the function and workings of American democracy
  3. A unit where students will conduct a major research project on a current policy issue and take some action to change policy
  4. A macroeconomic unit, focusing on government economic policy
  5. A microeconomic unit, focusing on budgeting, investment, and personal economics

I’m still playing around with the idea of a brief “Unit 0” to introduce some of the big group problem solving strategies students will need, as well as to focus on thinking outside the box and imagining possibilities beyond what already exists, but I’m not sure what that would look like.

The units have emerged as I started crafting my Enduring Understandings – the big, transferable takeaways I want my students to leave my class with.  These understandings will also serve as the basis for the learning goals I will use in the Standards Based Grading system I’ll be using in my class this year.*  For those not familiar with the Understanding by Design framework, Enduring Understandings are some combination of:

  1. An important inference, drawn from the experience of experts, stated as a specific and useful generalization
  2. Transferable, big ideas having enduring value beyond a specific topic
  3. Abstract, counterintuitive, or easily misunderstood ideas
  4. Something best acquired by “uncovering” and “doing”
  5. A summary of important strategic principles in skill areas (UbD 2nd edition, p. 128-130)

This is a stage of planning I’ve always struggled with.  It seems just as often as not, the understandings I craft will not end up being the understandings I actually help students learn. I think this is because I forced myself to go through a linear progression of the three stages of planning, which is not actually how backwards planning is supposed to work.  I will try and be better about that this year.

With all that said, here are the 37 Enduring Understandings I’ve crafted for my class at this point.  Most of these will eventually have sub/topical understandings that go with them.  In order to create these, I started with the list of outcomes from my last post, and tried to write an understanding or two for each.  I then looked at the understandings systematically to see where things could be combined or eliminated, before putting through a checklist test of the above 5 qualities.

For anyone who has the time to give feedback, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Bump & Space: Reporting Letter Grades from Standards Based Assessments

The Problem

For a teacher beginning the process of Standards Based Grading (SBG), one of the biggest mental and practical road blocks is the answer to the question, “How am I going to take all these standard based scores and turn them into grades for students?” Here is what my grade book looks like at any given time:

From Blog Photos

All my grades are on a five point standard-based scale (5=Outstanding, 4=Good, 3= Competent, 2=Approaching Competency, and 1=Unacceptable), where a 3 represents a satisfactory passing grade for the end of the year (whereas a two is satisfactory wt the beginning of the year). Therefore, a 60% is a solid grade in my class, and cannot correspond to a 60 on the transcript, which is a failing grade. Likewise, it is extremely rare that a student will be excellent across all my standards, so a 90% or above is essentially impossible. Yet every nine weeks, I have to provide my students with a numerical percentage grade which goes on their transcripts that must correspond to a traditional grade scale.

In an ideal world, we would just give students and parents direct, unmediated feedback in terms of how students preform on various standards so students can have an honest assessment of their strengths and areas where further growth is required. The unfortunate reality though, is that the overwhelming majority of teachers must report a letter or a number grade multiple times throughout the year.

The solution I will propose here can work in one of two ways:

  1. Teachers only report grades based on standards on some finite scale throughout the marking period, and convert standards to a final numerical grade at the end of the marking period (which is what I do in my classroom)
  2. Teachers convert each convert each individual assignment to a traditional number or letter grade, which allows for teachers to try out SBG without completely changing everything they do.

For teachers who are new to SBG or who might want to start by just getting their feet wet, I would recommend starting with the latter option, though I think the former is a more logical implementation of SBG as a system of assessment and reporting. There are other solutions to this problem out there which do the job simply and effectively, more abstractly, or that aim to ensure motivation and high expectations across the board, all for the first situation, but I’ve yet to see anything that can work for both.

The Solution Continue reading Bump & Space: Reporting Letter Grades from Standards Based Assessments

SBG in My History Classroom Part 5b: Assessing the Standards

(See Part 5a here. Everything earlier in this Standards Based Grading series is here. As always, I’d love feedback)

Project #6: French Revolution Newspaper Project

(Assignment adapted from The Student Centered Classroom Handbook by Bil Johnson; f

amily descriptions adopted from The Choices Program: The French Revolution, both of which are highly recommended)

Unit: The French Revolution

Essential Question: Do the ends justify the means? Is the pen truly mightier than the sword?

Standards/Understandings:

  • Writing Standards
  • Obtain historical data from a variety of sources, including: library and museum collections, historic sites, historical photos, journals, diaries, eyewitness accounts, newspapers, and the like; documentary films; and so on.
  • Interrogate historical data by uncovering the social, political, and economic context in which it was created; testing the data source for its credibility, authority, authenticity, internal consistency and completeness; and detecting and evaluating bias, distortion, and propaganda by omission, suppression, or invention of facts.
  • Identify the gaps in the available records and marshal contextual knowledge and perspectives of the time and place in order to elaborate imaginatively upon the evidence, fill in the gaps deductively, and construct a sound historical interpretation.
  • Freedom ain’t free
  • Winning the revolution doesn’t mean that the revolution has been won

You will be given “family” identities, with the characteristics of that family explained to you: that is, where the family is from, what its economic status is (how they made/make their money), what the family members’ political philosophy and religious background is, etc. The “family” group you will be affiliated with is that branch of the family that runs the prominent newspaper for your class in France. Each member of your “family” will have a role as an editor or reporter for the newspaper. Continue reading SBG in My History Classroom Part 5b: Assessing the Standards

SBG in My History Classroom Part 5a: Assessing the Standards

With our curriculum map done (at least in draft form), my team’s next step in the backwards design process is to design the assessments we will use to asses our standards. I’m posting plans here to get feedback, ideas, and to share. These will show up in no particular order. Here are two projects which interconnect at different points in the year.

Project #2: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Time Travel Tour Co.

Unit: Belief Systems

Essential Question: How do people make sense of their world?

Standards/Understandings:

  • Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances and contemporary factors contributing to problems and alternative courses of action.
  • Identify relevant historical antecedents and differentiate from those that are inappropriate and irrelevant to contemporary issues.

(Before they get this, scenes from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure will be used as a hook)
Part 1:

After their travels through time, Bill and Ted have decided to start a business: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Time Travel Tour Co. Their first customers are a group from the United Nations who want to try and find solutions to current problems caused by religious tensions. Bill & Ted have hired you, because you are totally awesome, to plan the tour for the UN members. You will have to take them to three key moments in history to help them understand the current conflict. Before they go on the tour, you will have to provide them with a preview of what they can expect to see, which will include:

  • The time and place to which they will travel
  • A description of the relevant groups or individuals they will see
  • An explanation of why this event is important to help understand the current conflict

You will be assigned a group to create a tour for one of the following conflicts:

  • Israel/Palestine
  • Catholics/Protestants in Norther Ireland
  • India/Pakistan
  • Sunni/Shiite
  • West/Islamic Fundamentalism
  • Christians/Muslims in Sudan
  • Serbs/Muslims in Bosnia

Part 2:

The UN Members were so impressed with your tour, that they want your advice on how to stop the current conflict. Write them a letter where you summarize what steps should be taken to solve the conflict. Be sure to explain how your first hand experience of history helped you come up with this plan, as well as what the religions have in common to help them understand the other side.

Project #7: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Time Travel Tour Co. – The Sequel

Unit: End of Year Review
Essential Question: How did we get here?
Standards/Understandings:

  • Challenge arguments of historical inevitability by formulating examples of historical contingency, of how different choices could have led to different consequences.
  • Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances and contemporary factors contributing to problems and alternative courses of action.
  • Identify relevant historical antecedents and differentiate from those that are inappropriate and irrelevant to contemporary issues.

Part 1:

Bill & Ted were so awesomely impressed with your work, that they want to hire you to design tours that they can market to schools with students who don’t think history matters. Last time, they came to you with a specific problem people needed to know more about. Now, they want you to identify a problem that you think students will care about. Once you’ve identified this problem, you will have to come up with 5 different moments in history to take the students to help them understand the current problem. We don’t want to bore any students, so there needs to be variety in your selections: you need to take students to at least 3 different continents, in 3 different time periods. In choosing your 5 moments, you can either choose moments that directly led to the current problem (like the Berlin Conference to help people understand the underdevelopment of Africa during Colonialism) or moments that give similar examples from history (like to a port city during the Black Plague to help people understand the AIDS crisis).

Before they go on the tour, you will have to provide them with a preview of what they can expect to see, which will include:

  • The time and place to which they will travel
  • A description of the relevant groups or individuals they will see
  • An explanation of why this event is important to help understand the current conflict

Finally, because this is a new tour, you’ll have to help Bill & Ted get people to sign up for it by creating a poster (perhaps using Glogster?). Your poster needs to include all the information you’ve assembled, but most importantly, it needs to convince people that the problem you have identified is important and interesting.
Part 2:You saw the presentation one of your classmates came up with, and realized something: if you went on their tour, you could prevent one of the current problems we now have in the world. Unfortunately, you are not allowed out of the phone booth during the time travel tour, but you are pretty sure you could sneak a letter through the crease. Your job then, is to choose two of your classmates’ posters. For each one, choose one important person from one of the events, and write them a letter explaining what they should do or say in the situation that they are in. Explain what will happen to history depending on their actions at that moment.

Next Steps:

These need rubrics and examples.

SBG in My History Classroom Coda: The Challenge of Assessment

Liz Becker already identified one of the major problems with doing SBG in the history classroom: our standards are not that great to being with: they are often broad or ambiguous. But even once we have a good standard list (as Liz, Erik, and myself are all trying to do), there is still another challenge that math and English teachers don’t face as often: How do we assess for understanding of the standards? With math or english standards, this is fairly straight forward, most of the time (there are some exceptions, but not many). Here are two examples from the new National Common Core Standards (which NY very quietly adopted this week):

Common Core Algebra Standard: Identify zeros of polynomials when suitable factorizations are available, and use the zeros to construct a rough graph of the function defined by the polynomial.

Common Core English Language Arts Standard: Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

In both cases, it’s fairly obvious how to assess for this. With the math, you ask a student to identify zeros of a polynomial, and use the zeros to construct a rough graph, and then you see if they did it correctly. With the ELA, you ask students to write something where they introduce precise, knowledgeable claims, etc, and then see how well they did that.

In the history classroom, things are not always this easy. They are with some skill standards and some basic content standards, but rarely are with the deep, meaningful, important standards that would enable SBG to work in Social Studies class. Here is one example, from the OAH Skill Standards my history department has adopted for next year:

Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances and contemporary factors contributing to problems and alternative courses of action.

For one, you certainly can’t tell a student to “marshall eveidence of antecdent circumstances.” But more importantly, it is impossible to assess this on a traditional test, because there is no right answer. A short response question can give you some idea of a level of a student’s understanding, but to really display deep understanding, students will have to create a larger and more significant body of work. This is why standardized tests, like the NY Regents exam, do not and cannot assess college readiness, nor anything else worthwhile in the longterm development of a student. The only way to assess whether or not a student can “Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances and contemporary factors contributing to problems and alternative courses of action” is to give them an an extended performance assessment or a project-based assessment.

SBG in My History Classroom Part 4: My Standards for next year

(This is also a response to Liz’s post)

Next year, I’m teaching a new Global History course. At this point, I have three groups of standards to work with:

  1. Writing Skill Standards
  2. Historian Skill Standards
  3. Essential Understandings Standards

I described the writing standards in my previous post:

  • Thesis is convincing, thoughtful, relevant, & precise
  • Thesis is developed thoughtfully, logically & persuasively throughout the piece
  • The work use a variety of convincing evidence to support their thesis
  • The work uses analysis to demonstrate how evidence supports the thesis
  • The work has a clear introduction presenting the thesis in a highly engaging, compelling manner
  • Each paragraph presents an argument clearly and supports an overall structure
  • Consistent, effective transitions develop ideas and arguments logically & build to compelling, persuasive conclusion.
  • The work consistently and beautifully applies a format and diction that is appropriate to purpose, audience and context
  • The work uses varied sentence length and structure to enhance meaning
  • Mechanical and grammatical errors are non-existent
  • Follows MLA conventions for quotations and citations flawlessly

The Historian Skill Standards are from the OAH National History Standards, which my department decided to adapt, braking them up between the four grades (unfortunately, New York only has content standards, not skill standards). In 11th grade, we are responsible for the following standards:

  • Challenge arguments of historical inevitability by formulating examples of historical contingency, of how different choices could have led to different consequences.
  • Hypothesize the influence of the past, including both the limitations and the opportunities made possible by past decisions.
  • Formulate historical questions from encounters with historical documents, eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, historical sites, art, architecture, and other records from the past.
  • Obtain historical data from a variety of sources, including: library and museum collections, historic sites, historical photos, journals, diaries, eyewitness accounts, newspapers, and the like; documentary films; and so on.
  • Interrogate historical data by uncovering the social, political, and economic context in which it was created; testing the data source for its credibility, authority, authenticity, internal consistency and completeness; and detecting and evaluating bias, distortion, and propaganda by omission, suppression, or invention of facts.
  • Identify the gaps in the available records and marshal contextual knowledge and perspectives of the time and place in order to elaborate imaginatively upon the evidence, fill in the gaps deductively, and construct a sound historical interpretation.
  • Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances and contemporary factors contributing to problems and alternative courses of action.
  • Identify relevant historical antecedents and differentiate from those that are inappropriate and irrelevant to contemporary issues.

Finally, the Essential Understandings were developed with my planning team as part of our curriculum mapping (these are very much a first draft):

  • Your environment can dictate the type of life you lead
  • 
Culture is how people make sense of their world

  • Different religions share similar truths
  • Cultural diffusion affects the conquerer and the conquered
  • Freedom ain’t free
  • Winning the revolution doesn’t mean that the revolution has been won
  • The past determines the present but not necessarily the future
  • Eurocentrism happened because of guns, germs, steel & geography
  • Change is possible
  • Change is the only constant

That makes for 29 total standards right now as the focus for the year, which seems like a manageable number.