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Introduction to the CAS for Social Studies 2022

Colorado Academic Standards: All Students, All Standards

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Introduction to the Colorado Academic Standards for Social Studies

Purpose of Social Studies

Thomas Jefferson and other founders of the republic emphasized that the vitality of a democracy depends upon the education and participation of its citizens. The need for an informed citizenry was the very impetus for the creation of free public education in the United States. If the nation is to develop fully the readiness of its citizenry to carry forward its democratic traditions, it must support progress toward attainment of the vision of powerful social studies teaching and learning (NCSS Position Statement, Social Education 80(3), pp 180–182 ©2016 National Council for the Social Studies).

Our contemporary social studies education is comprised of four disciplines: history, geography, economics and civics. Taken together, these disciplines are essential to understanding the complexity of the world. They provide the context and understanding of the human experience. They offer the crucial knowledge needed to create a framework for understanding the systems of society. The social studies provide cornerstone skills that are vital to opening doors for a more diverse, competitive workforce, and responsible citizenry. Those skills are critical thinking, self-assessment, reasoning, problem-solving, collaboration, research, and investigation to make connections in new and innovative ways as students progress through social studies education. The knowledge and skills provided through social studies are instrumental to preparing citizens to participate in our democratic society, to understanding the complexity of the world, and to comprehend the interdependencies that influence the present and shape the future.

Colorado's social studies standards lay out a blueprint of the essential disciplines necessary to fulfill Jefferson’s vision.  The authors of this document are educators in preschool through twelfth grade, higher education professors, and community members. The group reviewed and made revisions to the original set of social studies standards, based on input from multiple resources. 

Rigorous and relevant social studies include strategies and activities that engage students with essential questions and significant ideas as they encourage students to connect their learning to their prior knowledge and to current issues; to think critically and creatively about what they are learning, and to apply that learning to authentic situations. In addition, authentic social studies must be meaningful, integrative, value-based, challenging and active (Adapted from NCSS Position Statement, Social Education 80(3), pp 180–182 ©2016 National Council for the Social Studies).

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. Standards are different from curricula. Standards are broad learning goals articulating what students should know, understand and be able to do at a given time. A curriculum is an organized plan of instruction, comprised of a sequence of instructional units, that engages students in mastering the standards. 

The Colorado Academic 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. The social studies standards were revised and then approved by the State Board of Education in November 2022, and districts will be expected to implement them by the fall of 2024. The social studies standards are organized into five separate disciplines: history, geography, economics, civics, and personal financial literacy. 

Prepared Graduates in Social Studies

  1. Apply the process of inquiry to examine and analyze how historical knowledge is viewed, constructed, and interpreted.
  2. Analyze historical time periods and patterns of continuity and change, through multiple perspectives, within and among cultures and societies.
  3. Apply geographic representations and perspectives to analyze human movement, spatial patterns, systems, and the connections and relationships among them.
  4. Examine the characteristics of places and regions, and the changing nature among geographic and human interactions.
  5. Evaluate how scarce resources are allocated in societies through the analysis of individual choice, market interaction, and public policy.
  6. Express an understanding of how civic participation affects policy by applying the rights and responsibilities of a citizen.
  7. Analyze the origins, structures, and functions of governments to evaluate the impact on citizens and the global society.
  8. Apply economic reasoning skills to make informed personal financial decisions.

Standards in Social Studies

The Colorado Academic Standards in social studies are organized by content area. The five standards of social studies are:

1. History

History prepares students to develop critical thinking skills in an effort to explain the human experience through events of the past. History develops an understanding of perspectives, defines identity and creates insight into how social, political, and economic factors can change, while building inquiry, judgment and decision-making skills. History enhances the ability to read varied sources and develop the skills necessary to analyze, interpret, evaluate, and communicate.

2. Geography

The study of geography creates an informed person with an understanding of spatial perspective and technologies for spatial analysis; and an awareness of the interdependence of the world regions and resources, and how places are connected at the local, national, and global scales. Students understand the complexity and interrelatedness of people, places, and environments. Geography helps students appreciate the dynamic relationships and complexity of the world.

3. Economics

Economics teaches how people allocate scarce resources for production, distribution, and consumption, both individually and collectively; how people make decisions, how people interact in the domestic and international markets, and how forces and trends affect the economy as a whole. The two branches of economics are microeconomics and macroeconomics.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) are widely used economic indicators.

4. Civics

Civics teaches students the complexity of the origins, structure, and functions of governments; the rights, roles, and responsibilities of citizenship; the importance of law; and the skills necessary to participate in all levels of government. Civics is a foundational component of the educational experience and critical to the continued success of our society. A democratic and free society relies on the skills, knowledge, engagement and virtue of its citizens.

5.  Personal Financial Literacy

Personal financial literacy applies the economic way of thinking to help individuals understand how to manage their own scarce resources using a logical decision-making process of prioritization based on analysis of the costs and benefits of every choice.  Personal financial literacy teaches students an understanding of concepts like saving, investing, and debt that leads to an overall sense of financial well-being.  Skills such as budgeting, paying for college, setting short and long-term financial goals, and money management are integral to the financial health of all students.

The Revision Process 

In revising the standards, the Colorado Department of Education began with the solicitation of public input on the revision process and engaged external experts to provide analyses of current standards in relation to national and international models.  A committee of Colorado educators was selected from a pool of applicants to be part of the social studies review and revision committee.  

In addition to responding to public feedback on the 2018 version of the Colorado Academic Standards for social studies, the social studies standards review and revision committee was required to implement and respond to new legislative requirements for the standards.

  • House Bill 19-1192: History, Culture, and Civil Government in Education Commission recommendations. This bill requires that the recommendations from this commission be considered during the standards review process.
  • House Bill 20-1336: Holocaust and Genocide Studies. This bill required the State Board to adopt standards for Holocaust and genocide by July 2021.
  • House Bill 21-1200: Revise Financial Literacy Standards. This bill required the inclusion of new topics in the personal financial literacy standards.
  • House Bill 21-1103: Media Literacy Standards. This bill required the review process to consider the recommendations of the Media Literacy Advisory Committee established under House Bill 19-1110.
  • Senate Bill 21-067: Strengthening Civics Education. This bill required the inclusion of specific topics in the civics standards.

A Note About LGBTQ References

The purpose of House Bill 19-1192 was to ensure that the history, culture and social contributions of minority groups, including African Americans, Latinos, Indigenous peoples, Asian Americans, Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals were recognized in Colorado's history and civics standards.  

The requirement to teach about the history, culture and social contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals is not an obligation to teach comprehensive human sexuality education which is optional under state law (C.R.S. 22-1-128).  The inclusion of diverse narratives in history and civics is intended to provide a broad understanding about the stories of all groups and individuals who have contributed to the development and enduring legacies of the United States.  Furthermore, it is important that all children in classrooms across Colorado feel respected, included, and are treated with dignity. The social studies standards are premised on this common value.