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Family and Community Guide for High School Social Studies

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Working Together: To support families, communities, and teachers in realizing the goals of the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS), this guide provides an overview of the learning expectations for students studying high school social studies. This guide offers some learning experiences students may engage in at school that may also be supported at home.

Why Standards? Created by Coloradans for Colorado students, the Colorado Academic Standards provide a grade-by-grade road map to help ensure students are successful in college, careers, and life. The standards aim to improve what students learn and how they learn in 12 content areas while emphasizing critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and communication as essential skills for life in the 21st century.

Download the High School Social Studies Booklet here.

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Social Studies (adopted 2018)

Building on the social studies skills developed throughout the elementary and middle school grades, students in high school study world history (Renaissance to the present), world geography, United States history (Reconstruction to the present), economics (including personal financial literacy), and United States government. Throughout high school, students investigate historical events, examine geographic features and resources, consider economic decision-making processes, and analyze the rights, roles, and responsibilities of citizens.

Expectations for U.S. History Students:

  • Articulate (write and speak) about ideas, events, and historical periods that shaped United States History (from Reconstruction to the present); use the historical method of inquiry to formulate compelling questions; evaluate a variety of primary and secondary sources; identify patterns of continuity and change over time for significant historical periods; discuss the ideas that shape(d) people and places.
  • Use maps and other geographic tools to explain the interactions of people and places; explain how places and regions are connected.
  • Trace the expansion of political engagement through civil rights movements and issues of unity and diversity; explain how government structures and policies impact societies and citizens.

Throughout U.S. History You May Find Students:

  • Analyzing historical sources for historical context (When was the source created? What circumstances led to the source’s creation? Where was the source created?); identifying a document’s point of view (Who created the document? How can you analyze the perspective for the possible biases of its creator?); researching topics using a variety of sources; writing historical arguments using appropriate evidence and analysis; considering the differences between fact and historical interpretation.
  • Tracing continuity and change in eras and across locations (foreign policy issues, technological revolutions); connecting causes and effects of significant events in U.S. History (global conflicts, the Great Depression, civil rights movements,); considering the ideas, motivations, complexity, and outcomes of historical events (voting rights, anti-discrimination policies); discussing issues that have unified groups as well as issues that have separated groups.
  • Discussing the history of political thought, theory and actions (conservatism, liberalism, fundamentalism) and the effects of political thought on individuals, businesses, and societies; analyzing the roles of conflict, compromise, and cooperation on national unity and diversity (suffrage, civil rights); analyzing the role of ideas in American history (populism, progressivism, isolationism); identifying the development and impact of the arts and literature on the culture of the United States (Harlem Renaissance).
  • Tracing the immigration and migration patterns of different groups in the United States from Reconstruction to present day (urbanization and suburbanization).
  • Talking and writing about the causes and effects of major economic fluctuations (cycles of boom and bust); evaluating ideas of economic thinkers (Keynes, Friedman); examining important inventions and entrepreneurs.
  • Discussing the Constitution as a flexible document; investigating American foreign policy; outlining the growth and limits of executive power (New Deal, War Powers Act, U.S.A. PATRIOT Act); examining Supreme Court cases that extend the scope of government power and affect the rights of the individual (Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education).

Expectations for World History Students:

  • Articulate (write and speak) about ideas, events, and historical periods that shaped World History (from the Renaissance to the present); use the historical method of inquiry to formulate compelling questions; evaluate a variety of primary and secondary sources; identify patterns of continuity and change over time for significant historical periods within and among cultures and societies; discuss world religions and other ideas that shape(d) people and places.
  • Use maps and other geographic tools to explain the interactions of people and places; explain how places and regions are connected.
  • Trace the formation of different forms of governments; explain how government structures and policies impact societies and citizens.

Throughout World History You May Find Students:

  • Analyzing primary and secondary sources to formulate historical arguments; considering continuity and change within and among cultures and societies; connecting the causes and effects of significant events, major scientific, and technological innovations (Industrial Revolution); considering events with their complex motivations, ideas, and results (the World Wars); discussing issues that unify cultural/national groups (independence movements/decolonization), and issues that divide or separate people (the Holocaust and other genocides); discussing the historical development and contemporary impact of philosophical movements and major world religions (for example, the Enlightenment, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and Taoism).
  • Using maps and other geographic tools to explain the growing interconnectedness of the world’s population (emigration and immigration patterns); interpreting how the environment shapes societies and countries throughout world history; relating how the uneven distribution of resources in the world can result in conflict, competition, or cooperation.
  • Explaining how the economic role of government within different countries affects decisions regarding production and distribution of goods (socialism, communism, and market capitalism); analyzing the opportunity costs of economic choices throughout modern world history.
  • Examining the political theories that contributed to the foundation and development of various governments; evaluating the interactions of various governments and their leaders (the development of fascist dictators before World War II); comparing and contrasting the functions of different systems of government (monarchies, democracies, dictatorships).

Expectations for Geography Students:

  • Demonstrate a spatial understanding of the world (the patterns and organization of people, places, and environments).
  • Evaluate primary and secondary sources through a geographer’s point of view to critically analyze and interpret maps and data.
  • Explain and interpret geographic characteristics (mountains, oceans, countries, states) that influence the interaction of people, places, and environments using different types of maps and geographic tools.
  • Assess and evaluate the interconnected and interdependent nature of the world, its people, and places; analyze human/environmental interactions and explain the impact on global interdependence.

Throughout Geography You May Find Students:

  • Using maps, graphs, tables, charts, and GIS systems to gather data and analyze information about the physical and human features of the world.
  • Researching and interpreting multiple viewpoints on problems and policies regarding the use of Earth’s resources including the development of possible solutions to cultural and environmental issues (sustainability, natural hazards and disasters, prosperity and poverty, and resource use).
  • Predicting how human activities will shape the Earth’s surface.
  • Examining ways that people cooperate and compete for use of Earth’s resources.
  • Asking and answering geographic questions, proposing solutions, and analyzing information about the distribution of resources in the world.
  • Explaining how control of resources can lead to conflict, competition, and cooperation.
  • Researching cultural diffusion, population issues, and environmental issues and discussing the relationship between humans and the physical environment.
  • Analyzing patterns of movement, population distribution, and the causes and effects of migration.

Expectations for Economics & Personal Financial Literacy Students:

  • Economics: Explain that the scarcity and allocation of natural, human, and capital resources requires individuals, businesses, and governments to make choices. Understand how government policies, competition, and international trade affect the price of goods and services exchanged in the marketplace.
  • Personal Financial Literacy: Examine the four parts of the budgeting process. This includes factors that impact an individual’s earning capability, investment options, consumer skills, and risk management strategies.

Throughout Economics & Personal Financial Literacy You May Find Students:

  • Explaining that choices made by individuals, businesses, and government are influenced by incentives and policies.
  • Explaining how choices incur opportunity costs.
  • Analyzing policies aimed at stabilizing the economy (fiscal policy by the government and monetary policy by the Federal Reserve).
  • Analyzing the role of government in a market economy.
  • Contrasting different economic systems (capitalism, socialism, communism, mixed market system).
  • Defining characteristics of market structures (pure competition, monopolistic competition, monopoly).
  • Exploring the implications of international trade.
  • Considering decisions and opportunities consumers face in order to become financially capable individuals, including income sources; investment choices; tax liabilities; insurance benefits; and spending, saving and borrowing options.

Expectations for Civics Students:

  • Gather information about and engage civically to address issues at local, state, tribal, and national levels.
  • Describe the foundation of government (rule of law, common good) and its structures (Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Federal, and State) and functions.
  • Understand how foreign and domestic public policy is made at local, state, tribal, and national levels.
  • Gather and analyze data from multiple sources to look for patterns and create hypotheses regarding various forms of government.

Throughout Civics You May Find Students:

  • Researching current issues (immigration, education, civil rights) for the purpose of influencing public policy; identifying which level of government is appropriate to communicate with regarding political issues; evaluating the accuracy and perspective of various media sources and describing how media acts as a check on governmental practices.
  • Examining political philosophers related to the origins and structure of government; analyzing competing democratic values (freedom vs. security, individual rights vs. common good).
  • Explaining how the founding documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights) embody the principles of democracy and values such as freedom, security, equality, and individual rights and responsibilities.
  • Analyzing options for participating in local, state, tribal, and national policy development (initiatives, voting, protest, referendum, party participation, campaigns).
  • Assessing the effectiveness of the justice system, executive actions, and the legislative process in preserving and promoting the ideals of the U.S. system of government; using court decisions and legislative actions to trace the development of the rights and ideals of America’s representative democracy.