While there are “smart student characteristics” that are common to all disciplines and all grade levels, there are some characteristics that indicate proficiency in a given area of study or discipline. In social studies, there are a large number of “disciplines” that may be tested in a tremendous amount of content that has to be covered. It’s important to note, however, that even if all of the content included in the state standards is covered, there are a number of other variables that determine whether or not a student will be able to score at the proficient level on the state assessment. In social studies, like science, the multiple disciplines include specific concepts, understandings and expectations, a core of shared scientific habits of mind and thinking skills, and a set of cross discipline competencies (e.g., purposeful/critical writing, critical reading, and creative thinking/problem-solving/decision making).
A brief summary of these characteristics is included in the chart below.
|Characteristics Required for Proficiency in Social Studies||Current Tools Available||Usable in Regular School Setting||Usable in VI or NTI Setting||Priority|
|Mastery of appropriate grade level reading skills that enable interaction with social studies textbooks and ancillary genre|
|A positive attitude about history and social studies work|
|A positive perception of self as “social scientist” or “historian”|
|Mastery of grade level appropriate social studies vocabulary, maps, graphic displays, and genre|
|Successful linkage of thoughtful “habits of mind” and thinking strategies, social science work, and assessments|
|Mastery of grade level appropriate writing skills needed to demonstrate thinking about or with social studies concepts|
|Successful application of purposeful writing skills (e.g., writing to explain, writing to learn, or writing to explain a decision).|
|Mastery of grade level appropriate review and revision strategies|
|Mastery of the reading and writing skills required on state social studies assessments|
|Mastery of the mathematics and science concepts and skills required creating meaning for social science learnings|
|Mastery of formal register communication|
|Mastery of the different formats and venues of the state social studies prompts and questions|
|Successful recognition and use of social studies concepts and skills in real-world settings|
In a standards-based world, especially with the high-stakes accountability assessment in place, social studies teachers and their students are at risk. Not only are multiple disciplines tested, but critical reading, purposeful/discipline appropriate writing, critical and scientific thinking, and formal register communication are required in a variety of testing formats, venues, and genre expectations that are embedded in the state assessment or not spelled out directly in state “standards.” It is critical for social studies teachers and social studies specialists to unpack the standards for each grade level to establish the expectations and to assess student progress in virtual school and identify the disqualifiers that may prevent students who actually know social studies content from reaching their potential on the state assessment.