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Social Studies

DCPS Social Studies empowers students to become inquisitive, informed, and engaged global citizens who use critical thinking, inquiry, and disciplinary literacy to foster readiness in college, careers, and civic life.

All DCPS students participate in Social Studies instruction throughout their academic career Grades K-12, focusing on civics, economics, geography and history according to the following themes:

Grades K-2: General survey of Social Studies focusing on civics, economics, geography and history
Grade 3: DC History, Geography, and Government
Grade 4: US History, Native American Settlements through the American Revolution
Grade 5: US History, Expansion through Civil Rights Movement
Grade 6: World Geography and Cultures
Grade 7: Ancient History
Grade 8: US History 1
Grade 9: World History 1
Grade 10: World History 2
Grade 11: US History 2
Grade 12: US Government and DC History and Geography


Cornerstones: Social Studies Cornerstones give DCPS students a chance to engage in the work of historians, geographers, economists, and political scientists. Drawing on strategies such as paideia seminars, simulations, object and image analysis, and primary source interpretation, students are immersed in disciplinary literacies of the social studies and engaged in rich, compelling discussions. Students communicate their results and take informed action through writing persuasive position papers, public testimony, and policy proposals.

Building Literacy and Inquiry in Social Studies (BLISS): These modules are designed to move students and teachers through an inquiry model. Beginning with a compelling question, the modules set forth an inquiry aligned to DC Power standards, C3 Standards, and Common Core standards for reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Each module includes robust primary and secondary sources and embeds strategies such as Paideia seminar, Hochman writing, gallery walks, simulations, and vocabulary strategies. Each BLISS module was piloted by teacher developers who wrote them 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years in partnership with The Center for Inspired Teaching.


Kids studying in a classroom

African-American History: W.E.B. asks, at the end of Souls of Black Folk, “What would America be like without her Negro people?” This question is an opening for students to explore the history of Africans in America from an Afro-Centric perspective.  The course takes a topical and historical approach to African American history allowing students to explore in depth the nature of race in America and how this construct has influenced everything from arts, literature, politics, sports, language, fashion, economics, geography, and more. This course takes advantage of our location in Washington DC and make use of the rich history within our own neighborhoods.

Pre-law classes: Second and third year law students from Georgetown University Law School and American University’s Washington University of Law partner with high school Social Studies teachers to teach students about how law affects daily life through courses on Street Law, Constitutional Law, and Youth Justice. Students learn how to research, write, and compete in a mock-trial or moot court competition.

A student speaking in a courtroom

Social Studies certified electives include:

  • African-American History
  • Comparative Religions
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contemporary Issues and World Problems
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Street Law
  • Student Government
  • Topics in Government


Assessment is one of many important tools and is an essential part of building good curriculum and instruction. Assessment is a thread that is woven into the curriculum, beginning before instruction and occurring at moments throughout a course in an effort to monitor, revise, and expand what is being taught and learned. Planning with the end in mind, teachers are encouraged to create their assessments at the beginning of their instructional design.  Planning instruction to align with assessment ensures that teachers' pedagogical decisions are aligned toward mastery of important college, career, and civic life goals.

SAGE: The SAGE (Social Studies Assessment of Growth and Excellence) was created to measure growth in student performance and aligned to the Common Core Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies. The new SAGE assessments address the current lack of social studies assessments in DCPS, reinforce literacy instruction in alignment to Common Core for middle grades social studies teachers, and provide a baseline for schools to measure student growth in social studies knowledge and skills. The middle grades SAGE went operational during the 2015-2016 school year. The high school SAGE is currently in development.

Owl illustration


DCPS partners with over 200 museums, non-profits, agencies, and professional organizations to provide Social Studies support to schools, teachers and students, including professional development support, field trips, primary sources curated to DCPS standards, in-school programs, competitions, and class visits. Some partnerships include National History Day through the National Archives, Street Law, Mikva Challenge DC, Hindu American Foundation, DC Vote, African-American Civil War Museum, Teaching for Change, Peace Corp, Center for Civic Education thorough the James Madison Legacy Project, and the State Department to name just a few.

Students standing outside the US capitol

Middle States Council for the Social Studies

The DCPS Social Studies team are members of the Middle States Council for Social Studies (MSCSS), a regional affiliate of the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS). Members of the DCPS social studies team currently serve as the President-Elect and Recording Secretary. Through MSCSS, numerous DCPS social studies teachers have furthered their own professional development as members of the executive board and presenters at the annual conference as well as have been recognized for their work in the field of social studies.

Contact Information

Corie Colgan, Deputy Chief, Literacy and Humanities
Scott Abbott, Director, Social Studies
Leslie Booth, Manager, Social Studies Assessment
Donna Phillips; Manager, Social Studies Curriculum
Jayson Wilkinson, Manager, Social Studies Professional Developement