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OSSE Adopts New Social Studies Standards for District of Columbia Students

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Today, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) adopted revised social studies standards for public and public charter school students in kindergarten through grade 12 after a unanimous vote by the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) on June 21, 2023. The adoption of the new standards marks the first time in 17 years that the District of Columbia has updated the standards of teaching and learning social studies for DC students.

“In the District of Columbia, we are committed to social studies standards that reflect our student population and validate rather than deny their lived experiences and family histories,” said State Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant. “If we are going to remain the beacon and protector of democracy for the world, we must give our students the skills and knowledge they need to carry the torch.”

The new standards, which set expectations for the information students should master and define appropriate topics, skills and rigor for each grade level, were developed over the course of three years in partnership with the SBOE, the 32-member Technical Writing Committee of DC educators, and national social studies, civics and history experts, and with extensive community feedback.

“It is through these inclusive standards that we ensure that every child feels seen, valued, and heard within our educational system,” said SBOE President Eboni-Rose Thompson. “When we embrace diversity and inclusivity in our social studies standards, we are sending a powerful message to our students – that their stories matter, their cultures matter, and their contributions matter. It is through this acknowledgment that we empower our children to recognize their own worth and potential.”

The new standards aim to empower DC students to become active participants in our democracy, identify and combat misinformation, and wisely and effectively shape the future of DC, the nation and the world.

Notable shifts in the 2023 standards include teaching ancient history in grade 2 instead of grade 7, ensuring students encounter powerful stories about diverse civilizations before they learn about histories of oppression or struggle. Under the new standards, grade 8 students will learn civic engagement and democratic principles in a new Action Civics course, and students in all grades will strengthen their media literacy skills.

The new standards also empower educators to select content that best supports their students in exploring driving concepts. This shift allows educators to promote an in-depth understanding of complex ideas, concepts, and skills, and incorporate multiple historical perspectives and a global understanding of history.

To ensure educators are supported in implementing the revised standards, OSSE is making robust investments and developing supporting resources for educators and local education agencies including:

  • Committing more than $500,000 of Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Act funds to the development of standards-aligned materials;
  • Hosting several professional development opportunities for educators in Elementary Social Studies, Media Literacy, Action Civics and Geography Education; and
  • Hosting a Social Studies Resource Institute in July to gather educators from across the District to create a bank of standards aligned resources for educators and schools to use as they begin to implement social studies standards.

These efforts exist alongside OSSE’s investments in literacy materials and instruction and are part of OSSE’s strategic priority to Advance Excellence, and the broader learning acceleration and recovery strategy.

Learn more about the revisions to social studies standards here.