History–Social Studies

"Now more than ever, students need the intellectual power to recognize societal problems; ask good questions and develop robust investigations into them; consider possible solutions and consequences; separate evidence-based claims from parochial opinions; and communicate and act upon what they learn. And most importantly, they must possess the capability and commitment to repeat that process as long as is necessary. Young people need strong tools for, and methods of, clear and disciplined thinking in order to traverse successfully the worlds of college, career, and civic life."

College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards, 2013

Framework and Standards

In California, the State Board of Education determines both the curriculum framework and content standards for history and the social sciences. The curriculum framework presents the skills students need master in history–social science to be prepared for college and careers as well as to be active and informed citizens in both local and global contexts. The content standards describe what students should know in terms of civics and government, history, geography, economics, and personal finance. These skills and knowledge provide students with the ability to increase their critical thinking and fluency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, and are necessary in order to sustain our democratic republic. An ample history–social science curriculum, then, must reflect current practice and scholarship in the discipline that focuses on the study of the past. Learning activities should reflect the most recent instructional shifts, which include the Four Dimensions from the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. The framework is available at here.

San Diego Unified began full implementation of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History –Social Sciences, and Technical Subjects during the 2014–15 school year. The standards are available here.

The curriculum developed to guide the study of specific times and places in history is governed by the History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, available here. The content standards defined in that document provide essential guidelines for student learning across the TK–12 history–social sciences course of study. The instructional shifts in the 2016 framework are explained in the RELY module, available on the district's website.

Effective instructional design integrates the Four Dimensions from the C3 Framework:

  1. Developing questions and planning inquiries
  2. Applying disciplinary tools and concepts:
    • Civics
    • Economics
    • Geography
    • History
  3. Evaluating sources and using evidence
  4. Communicating conclusions and taking informed action

The Common Core State Standards are woven into each of the Four Dimensions. When applying disciplinary tools and concepts, there are three goals:

  1. Knowledge and cultural understanding
  2. Democratic understanding and civic values
  3. Skills attainment and social participation for students in grades 9–12, including:
    • Chronological and spatial thinking
    • Historical research, evidence, and point of view
    • Historical interpretation

Fair Education Act

On July 14, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 48, the FAIR Education Act, to make sure that the role and contributions of members of underrepresented racial, ethnic, and cultural groups to the economic, political and social development of California and the United States are included in history and social science lessons. The FAIR Education Act amends the Education Code by mandating that California schools include the contributions of people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community in the curriculum. Information on the FAIR Education Act is available here.


A variety of formal and informal assessments is used throughout the TK–12 history–social science program to determine student performance and progress. These include teacher-designed assessments, publisher's tests and quizzes, and state examinations.