Deisolating Social Studies Content Standards and Objectives Forms:
While visiting social studies classrooms, conducting RESA based professional development sessions, and listening to comments from the instructional materials meetings, I have discovered that there is still some confusion about the connections between WESTEST2, the Next Generation Social Studies Objectives and the Acuity Benchmarks. I hope to clear up any misconceptions and confusion that may have come up. Please at anytime if you are unsure about something or have a question feel free to contact me.
No new questions have been created for WESTEST 2, however there has been a realignment of the test questions to the Next Generation Standards and we are within the guidelines. We have to remember that the major changes were the history clusters but the majority of civics, economics, and geography remained at their respective grade levels, many possibly reworded or combined.
It is very important to address the new literacy objectives. If students are able to master those literacy objectives their scores should improve on the test. In the fall when you receive your WESTEST 2 results from the spring of 2013 the data will be aligned to the Next Generation Standards and Objectives.
The same does not ring true for the Social Studies Acuity Benchmarks. The Next Gen. Social Studies Objectives have not been loaded into Acuity. It may be more beneficial for teachers to create their own Social Studies Benchmarks. That is something that each school staff or county leadership team needs to discuss. The Acuity team is working on a document to assist teachers in creating their own benchmarks using the Acuity Platform.
It is important to make sure that students are aware that the Social Studies portion of the test is not a total test of specific content but a test of their skills as a historian, geographer, economist, political analyst, and etc…
The example I use is this. There could possibly be a question on the 6th or 11th grade test about Vietnam. There may be a letter home from a soldier to his mother and then questions. In most cases students say to themselves “I know about Vietnam” so they just go ahead and answer the questions without reading the letter. However, unless the teacher used that exact letter from WESTEST2 in the classroom, which is highly unlikely, students will not have a true understanding of the letter and be able to answer the questions correctly. They definitely will need an understanding of Vietnam and the feelings at home and abroad during that time period. Background knowledge is key here, however we have to make them understand that the questions themselves will normally refer back to a text, map, graph, picture or chart that is provided to them and in this case a letter. This is a strong conversation we need to have with students so they know what to expect on the test.
I think this is a misconception on the student’s part. Students think the test is about content recall and it’s more about skill. As you saw in that example students will still have to know about Vietnam or the letter will not make sense to them, however the test is not going to ask what Hotel in Saigon was bombed on Christmas Eve 1964. That would be a total recall question.
Another example may be a picture of, or a poster about, the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The test may say: This picture or poster is from Alabama in the 1960’s and has to deal with what event?
Students will need to have knowledge of all of the events mentioned above in order to make the best choice. They will use their critical thinking skills to decide which are not the correct answers and then choose the Civil Rights Movement as the correct response. This is not a content recall question like: What was the name of the lady who refused to give up her seat on the bus? We know the answer there would be Rosa Parks and that is a true content recall question and you will not see items like that on the test. However, if students did not have background knowledge about all 4 of the events above it would be hard for them to make the correct choice.
If you have any other questions or concerns feel free to contact me. I want to thank each and every one of you for the job you do each day. Enjoy your day and be careful out in the snow!
Coordinator, Allegra Kazemzadeh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Assistant, Mary Wilkins (email@example.com)
Office of Middle/Secondary Learning
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