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Sample state assessment, historical thinking assessment tools, and useful primary sources

don gifford title2


Okay. I’m an idiot. Several (many) of you have noticed that I said that I attached Don’s presentation. But I never did. Now I have. It’s linked below and here. Kansas teachers? You need to download this to see what the state assessment beta version looks like. (Be sure to scroll down for the rest of the goodies.) The rest of you? Scroll down for the rest of the goodies. You’ll find them handy too.


For the last few years, you’ve read about the process we’ve been working through as Kansas rewrites its social studies standards and state level assessment.

I’m convinced that the writing committee made up of teachers and state department staff developed a pretty awesome standards document. If you’ve been already for the the conversation, you already know that the focus has always been on finding ways to encourage process and historical thinking rather than simple memorization.

The real question, from the very beginning, has always been trying to figure out what the assessment will look like. How can you measure – at a state level with thousands of kids at different grades in a standardized way – historical thinking? How do you score it? What does the rubric look like? How can you train teachers to use the rubric consistently? Even at a classroom level, teachers are still working to figure this out. At the state level? Add the recent mandate that the elementary and middle school version of the test must now also act as the state writing assessment and it becomes a bit of a nightmare.

Thankfully Don Gifford and his crack staff of . . . well, just himself is on the case. Yesterday Don shared the latest vision of what the state level document looks like. And I can already hearing those of from places not Kansas clicking the Next button to head somewhere else.

But you need to hang around because Don and others have created and shared a series of resources that I think are useful for all social studies teachers.

I’ve added his presentation here which is very helpful for Kansas teachers. It spells out how the Field Test of the state assessment will look next spring with samples for each of the four parts. If you’re a 6th grade, 8th grade or high school US history teacher in the state, you really need to browse through that.

If you’re a 6th grade, 8th grade or high school US history teacher in the state or anyone, you also need to check out the beta version of what Don and KSDE is calling Formative Tools for History / Government / Social Studies.

To help Kansas teachers create instructional units that support high quality historical thinking (and BTW help kids be more successful on the state assessment), they have created both writing prompts and lists of useful primary sources that are aligned to the prompts.

useful KSDE primary sources

A few of the available primary sources

This is where non-Kansas teachers can benefit from what is coming out of Topeka. We’re all looking for help with prompts and primary sources. So go here to get the Writing Prompts and the Primary Sources. They’ve also created and shared rubrics for the different grades for argumentative, narrative, and expository writing exercises.

The rubrics may be the most useful of all the KSDE goodies but be sure to check out all of them.

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