Two years ago, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopted amendments to the rules governing public schools as well as the Illinois School Code which included new Social Science standards.  Although these standards were adopted in 2015; districts had until the 2017-2018 school year before districts were required to fully implement the new standards.

Having just been out of the classroom, I am aware that districts are always reviewing their curriculum and have a process in which they do such revisions.  So, are you currently implementing the new social science standards? Why were these standards developed?  How much really changed with the new standards?  

The goal of the new standards are to ensure that Illinois graduates are civically engaged, socially responsible, culturally aware, and financially literate.  One of the major changes throughout the “new” standards, that align to the goal of ensuring students are better prepared to be college and career ready, is the adoption of standards that address inquiry skills.

The inquiry standards found throughout the social science standards K-12 are focused around three themes:

  • Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries
  • Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence
  • Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action

When we think about the skills we want students to acquire at the end of their K-12 education we want students to be able to ask questions, know how to discover answers, and be able to communicate their learning and apply what they’ve learned by being active in their community and beyond.  

Inquiry goes hand in hand with the social science content, working together to shape future citizens who can think about and solve issues.  Engaging students in the learning process allows them to take ownership of the material and truly reach deep levels of understanding.  But how do we incorporate the new inquiry standards into our curriculum?  Do we need to start all over from scratch in our curriculum process?  Fear not the ROE is here to help…..

Illinois Online Academy is offering a self-paced, interactive, online course which walks participants through the curricular shifts the new standards require and how to implement the standards within your content areas to create meaningful interdisciplinary units.  The course also walks you through two engaging inquiry based activities that can be modified for implementation at any grade level.  Finally, participants will dive deep into the new standards as they review their current curriculum and compare what is currently being taught in their classrooms with the rigorous new standards.  The cost of the online course is only $50!  Click here for more information.   

Again, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, upon completion of the final activity in the online course you will know what lessons you need to “keep, tweak, or delete” in order to fully implement the new social science standards.  The standards break apart into themes for grades K-5:

  • Kindergarten: My Social World  
  • First Grade: Living, Learning, and Working Together  
  • Second Grade: Families, Neighborhoods, and Communities 
  • Third Grade: Communities Near and Far  
  • Fourth Grade: Our State, Our Nation  
  • Fifth Grade: Our Nation, Our World

The standards look a bit different for 6-12.  Instead of breaking the standards apart into themes they are banded by levels of complexity rather than grade levels (Less Complex, Moderately Complex, More Complex).  This was done because most social science classrooms are comprised of a wide array of ability levels and challenges, this continuum was designed to better meet needs of all students.

Within the disciplinary concept or theme the standards are divided into four disciplines of social science:

  • Civics
  • Geography
  • Economics/Financial Literacy
  • History

The High School standards are organized around the typical course structures: geography, economics, history, civics, with additional course standards written for psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

Through the new standards we can still teach important events; however, memorizing the date of each activity is not the vital take-away we need students to have, rather, students need to understand, for example, why the war started, ended, and the impact of those events on our country and on us today.  The rigor within the new Social Science Standards better prepares students for a successful future where they are more equipped to problem solve and and make educated decisions to better our world.  So although reviewing curriculum and aligning your lessons to state standards and mandates can be a bit daunting; it is well worth the time and attention to help students be successful in the world today and the future!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning

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