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Home » Student Success » Resources by Subject Area » Social Studies » OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments

OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments

What are the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments?

(Please note suggested unit outlines are currently aligned to the older standards. We are working diligently to update. Until then, please refer to these suggested unit outlines for general guidance.)

  • In short, the Social Studies assessments are multi‐stepped tasks or projects aligned to specific state standards (Social Studies EALRs), which target skills and knowledge necessary for engaged, informed citizenship.
  • Completing an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment at a proficient level requires students to demonstrate that they have met particular Social Studies EALRs (typically 3‐4 per CBA) by applying their understanding of social studies knowledge, concepts, and skills to a specific context that is meant to be relevant to the civic lives of these students.
  • OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments are designed to ensure that students employ critical thinking skills and engage in their own individual analysis of a particular context or topic.
  • There are 9 OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments targeted for elementary school, 10 for middle school, and 10 for high school. Each assessment focuses on one or more of the Social Studies EALR categories: civics, history, geography, and economics. Most assessments evaluate particular Social Studies Skills EALRs.
  • Nearly all of the assessments ask students to develop a position on an issue, event, or question, include background on the issue, event, or question, provide reasons and evidence for the position, and cite sources used to develop and support the position.
  • The key component of any OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment is the rubric page which spells out how a student can reach proficiency for the particular assessment. In addition, each assessment also includes several components that are considered “support materials” for teachers and students, including the student checklist, a graphic organizer, and suggested resources. These supplemental materials are primarily designed to help students break down the overall assignment as well as provide scaffolding for the work they will need to do to complete the assessment.
  • OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments were designed primarily by teachers who tried to capture best practices so that these assessments would be able to fit into teachers’ existing units.
  • OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments can be used at any time of the year although they are typically used as a culminating or summative assessment of learning that has occurred during a particular unit.

Why is Washington using the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments to provide accountability for social studies?

  • Validity: The standards-based OSPI-Developed Social Studies assessments are a valid way to evaluate students’ knowledge of the social studies standards.  In addition, these assessments serve as tools for learning, helping students to gain the knowledge and skills authentic to engaged, informed citizenship.
  • Coherence: District social studies programs will have greater coherence if OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments are included in each of their history, civics, geography, and economics courses from grades 3 through 12. The common rubrics ensure that students will be asked to meet similarly rigorous expectations as they move from grade to grade, as well as from district to district.
  • Balance: The OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments are designed to ensure accountability to the state’s standards while still maintaining a local district’s control over specific content in social studies.
  • Research: There is a great deal of research that indicates that having students engage regularly in rigorous, authentic, performance‐based assessments, such as the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments, increases their academic achievement in social studies and overall. The research by Cathy Taylor on classroom‐based assessments has informed the development of the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments as has the research of Fred Newmann and his associates on authentic intellectual work.
  • Integration: The Social Studies OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments are another way teachers can target important reading and writing standards in their instruction.
  • Accountability: The OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments and the reporting on the use of these assessments are one way the state is asking districts to ensure that all students have opportunities to meet the standards in civics, economics, geography, history, and the social studies skills.