Frequently Asked Questions
LanguagesA-Z IndexPrinter Friendly Image

If you have further questions
about Social Studies education, contact:

Carol Coe, Social Studies
Program Supervisor
(360) 725-6351


Social Studies

Frequently Asked Questions

Getting Oriented
Introducing the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments
Completing the final Student Response
Scoring the Assessments

Getting Oriented

What does the Law Require Regarding Social Studies Assessments at the State Level?
RCW 28A.230.095 states that:
By the end of the 2008-09 school year, school districts shall have in place in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools assessments or other strategies chosen by the district to assure that students have an opportunity to learn the essential academic learning requirements in social studies, the arts, and health and fitness. Social Studies includes history, geography, civics, economics, and social studies skills. Beginning with the 2008-09 school year, school districts shall annually submit an implementation verification report to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The office of the superintendent of public instruction may not require school districts to use a classroom-based assessment in social studies, the arts, and health and fitness to meet the requirements of this section and shall clearly communicate to districts their option to use other strategies chosen by the district.

Beginning with the 2008-09 school year, school districts shall require students in the seventh or eighth grade, and the eleventh or twelfth grade to each complete at least one classroom-based assessment in civics. Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, school districts shall require students in the fourth or fifth grade to complete at least one classroom-based assessment in civics. The civics assessment may be selected from a list of classroom-based assessments approved by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Beginning with the 2008-09 school year, school districts shall annually submit implementation verification reports to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction documenting the use of the classroom-based assessments in civics.

Verification reports shall require school districts to report only the information necessary to comply with this section.

What are the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments?

  • In short, the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments are multi-stepped tasks or projects aligned to specific state standards (Social Studies EALRs), which target skills and knowledge necessary for engaged, informed citizenship.
  • Completing a state-developed assessments at a proficient level requires students to demonstrate that they have met particular Social Studies EALRs (typically 3-4 per CBA) by applying their understanding of Social Studies knowledge, concepts, and skills to a specific context that is meant to be relevant to the civic lives of these students.
  • Assessments are designed to ensure that students employ critical thinking skills and engage in their own individual analysis of a particular context or topic.
  • There are 9 assessments targeted for elementary school, 10 for middle school, and 10 for high school. Each assessment focuses on one or more of the Social Studies EALR categories: civics, history, geography, and economics. Most assessments assess particular Social Studies Skills EALRs.
  • Nearly all of the assessments ask students to develop a position on an issue, event, or question, include background on the issue, event, or question, provide reasons and evidence for the position, and cite sources used to develop and support the position.
  • The key component of any OSPI-Developed Assessment is the rubric page which spells out how a student can reach proficiency for the particular assessment. In addition, each assessment also includes several components that are considered “support materials” for teachers and students, including the student checklist, a graphic organizer, and suggested resources. These supplemental materials are primarily designed to help students break down the overall assignment as well as provide scaffolding for the work they will need to do to complete the assessment.
  • Assessments were designed primarily by teachers who tried to capture best practices so that these assessments would be able to fit into teachers’ existing units.
  • While the assessments can be used at any time of the year as both summative and formative assessments, the assessment that is reported to the district and eventually to OSPI should be used as a culminating or summative assessment of learning during a particular unit.

What is the plan for implementing the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments and helping districts meet the law (RCW 28A.230.095)?
OSPI recommends that districts using the OSPI-Developed Assessments to comply with RCW 28A.230.095 should:

  • Implement at least one OSPI-Developed Assessment per level (elementary, middle and high)
  • A Civics CBA will need to be included at 4th or 5th grade, 7th or 8th grade, AND 11th or 12th grade.
  • Use the rubrics attached to each assessment to score these assessments locally.

Why are CBAs being used?

  • Validity: Given the broad, conceptual nature of our Social Studies EALRs, the OSPI-Developed Assessments are a valid way to assess the learning of these standards and to help students gain the knowledge and skills authentic to engaged, informed citizenship. A more standardized form of assessing Social Studies learning (e.g., multiple-choice and short answer questions) would not have the same validity.
  • Coherence: District Social Studies programs will have greater coherence if the OSPI-Developed Assessments are included in each of their history, civics, geography, and economics courses from grades 3 through 12. The common rubrics ensure that students will be asked to meet similarly rigorous expectations as they move from grade to grade, as well as from district to district.
  • Balance: The assessments are designed to ensure accountability to the state’s standards while still maintaining a local district’s control over specific content in Social Studies.
  • Research: There is a great deal of research that indicates that having students engage regularly in rigorous, authentic, performance-based assessments, such as the OSPI-Developed Assessments, increases their academic achievement in Social Studies and overall. (e.g., the research of Cathy Taylor and Fred Newmann)
  • Integration: The Social Studies assessments are another way teachers can target important reading and writing standards in their instruction.
  • Accountability: The OSPI-Developed Assessments and the reporting on the use of these assessments are one way the state is asking districts to ensure that all students have opportunities to meet the standards in civics, economics, geography, history, and the social studies skills.

Which OSPI-Developed Assessments should a district include in its Social Studies scope and sequence?
Choosing which assessment to use is currently a local decision, but OSPI does recommend that all areas of Social Studies be included in the assessment system is developed. The goal of this or any Social Studies assessment system is to improve instruction in all areas of the Social Studies and thus, we ask that you and your school district assess student understanding of the four discipline areas - civics, history, geography, and economics - as well as the social studies skills - inquiry, group process, and critical thinking. However, it should be noted that the 2006 addition to RCW 28A.230.095 gave additional emphasis to civics stating that “school districts shall require students in the fourth or fifth grades, the seventh or eighth grades, and the eleventh or twelfth grades to each complete at least one classroom-based assessment in civics.” The 29 OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments, however, include models that assess EALRs in each of the four Social Studies discipline areas and the social studies skills. Many of the models assess only one of the discipline areas and one of the skills. However, there are examples of integrated models that include multiple discipline areas. These integrated models may be more challenging for your students but may also allow you to go into more depth by having students complete fewer models.

How should the OSPI-Developed Assessments be included in existing courses and units?
These performance assessments are intended to be used in the classroom as a regular part of instruction. Where possible, they can become a centerpiece for instruction as you create instructional units around a theme (e.g., social justice), topic (e.g., Medieval Europe), or key Social Studies concept (e.g., democracy). They are NOT intended to stand alone outside of an instructional context. Think of them as projects students can do while learning what you and your district want them to learn. The projects are then part of the learning process and result in one or more performances that show what students have learned.

What is and is not included in the assessment packet?
The OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment packets contain two required pieces: the first page of instructions to students and the rubric. In addition, they have several other components that should serve as resources for students and teachers including a graphic organizer and instructions for teachers. They do not contain, however, specific lesson plans as the resources only provide general guidance on how to engage students in this work. A crucial task for each participating teacher will be to design a lesson plan to introduce the assessment to their students. In creating this lesson, the teacher will need to determine what terms students need to learn, and what Social Studies content and concepts need to be reviewed. Again, there is a great deal of flexibility in how teachers use the assessment materials. The key is effective integration into an existing curriculum.

How flexible are the OSPI-Developed Assessments?

  • Teachers have a great deal of choice in how to use these assessments.
  • Teachers may choose when to include the performance in their teaching.
  • Teachers may determine the content focus of the issue or question to be examined.
  • Teachers may have students generate the focus of their work or teachers may give them lists from which to choose.
  • Teachers may have the whole class focus on the same issue or question, have each group focus on a different issue or question, or have each individual choose a unique focus.
  • Teachers may distribute the description of the performance to students or teachers may create their own set of directions for students. (Which ever they choose, they should be sure that students know what the final performance is before they begin.)
  • For some assessments, teachers may let students choose the format of their final performances.

Is there any aspect of the OSPI-Developed Assessments that is not flexible?
Yes, the rubric page. In addition to any requirements implemented by a school or district at the local level, using the OSPI-Developed Assessments requires using the common rubrics that have already been developed, piloted, and vetted. While teachers can add to the rubric page for any assessment, they should not cut out any aspect of the rubric.

When should OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment be used? At what grade level?
These assessments are typically used as a summative assessment at the end of a unit. The GLEs provides suggestions for where specific CBAs might fit at each grade level.

Do the OSPI-Developed Assessments assess all of the GLEs?
The OSPI-Developed Assessments will not assess all GLEs. However, that does not stop teachers, schools, or districts from developing their own assessments for other areas of learning, whether or not they are addressed in the state standards (that, of course, has always been the case, even before the OSPI-Developed Assessments).

Should every teacher within a district do the same OSPI-Developed Assessment if they teach the same course or at the same grade level?
OSPI thinks it is a good idea for districts to adopt a plan in which all teachers teaching the same course or working with students at the same grade level would do the same OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment. This commonality would facilitate planning within and across schools. Moreover, the flexibility of the assessments still allows each teacher to tailor any one of these assessment to the interests and needs of her/his students or community. However, when choosing which OSPI-Developed Assessment should be included in particular courses and at particular grade levels, it is not required that all teachers teaching the same thing use the same assessment. In larger districts, it may not be feasible or desirable to have all those teaching Contemporary World Problems, for example, use the same assessment.

Where can teachers find materials to help students complete the OSPI-Developed Assessments?
Since most of the assessments require students to look at an issue or topic from multiple perspectives or to use multiple sources, relying on a traditional text usually will not be sufficient. As a result, OSPI has begun the process of identifying existing programs that ask students to complete tasks or projects that are very similar to the ones described in the assessments. These programs include We The People, History Day, and Facing the Future. To help explain the connection between the programs and the assessments, many non-profits have already developed what we are calling “bridging documents,” which are 1-2 page descriptions of how these programs align to specific components of the rubric. To be clear, these programs should not be done in lieu of an assessment but rather as a way to complete the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment. The bridging documents explicitly state how to make this link.

In addition, we realize that there is also a demand for materials that provide even more structure than the bridging documents. As a result, OSPI has just begun to work with groups developing model units to provide students and teachers with all of the materials they need to complete a particular assessment in one packet. For example, faculty from Evergreen State College have drafted a 5-lesson assessment “kit” on the “Point No Point” Treaty that is posted on our website in draft form. In addition, representatives from the Washington State Historical Society, the Puget Sound Archives, and others have formed a consortium in the interest of seeking funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop additional “Starter Kits.” We look forward to similar efforts from other interested groups in the future.

The Washington Library Media Association and their 1400 members, however, are arguably the leaders in the state in developing and finding instructional resources to help with the implementation of the Social Studies assessments, particularly those that require students to do research. To see the collection of the resources they have developed thus far, visit The ideas and materials there are excellent and continually being updated.

Finally, there are several curricular approaches and models that are compatible with the CBAs’ design. For example, unit-planning guidelines from the Understanding By Design (Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe) program may prove helpful to teachers as they begin to figure out how to incorporate an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment into an existing unit. This, however, is just one of many approaches that could be used.

At the same time, OSPI does not have the authority or capacity to identify and/or promote for-profit or commercially-developed materials that may also prove helpful. However, if you would like to talk with someone who has recently reviewed Social Studies commercial materials, there are several people in the state who have recently led their districts through the adoption process and who are willing to share their expertise. Please contact Kelly Martin ( if you would like their contact information.

How can the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments be used to help students meet reading and writing goals?
The assessments were designed by teachers to involve tasks and projects that not only ask students to demonstrate proficiency with regards to specific Social Studies standards but also provide them with the opportunity to develop reading and writing skills. The expectations outlined in the Reading and Writing GLEs are identical to steps listed in most of the assessments. Additionally, several outside organizations have begun the process to create OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment reading and writing correlation guides which identify not only the Social Studies standards met through the assessment, but also possible reading and writing standards.

How long does a CBA take?
There is no prescribed length of time that an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment must take. Some teachers include the assessment in an existing unit and devote only 2-3 class periods to having students complete their final response since the unit has already given them the opportunity to learn what they need to reach proficiency. Other teachers have had to take much more time introducing the assessment and its rubric and allowing students multiple opportunities to revise their final responses. Many teachers will share that the assessment does not seem to be as time consuming if the concepts, vocabulary, and skills are introduced throughout the year rather than only during one unit of study.

How and why are the rubrics posted in the summer of 2008 different from previous versions?
OSPI revised the rubrics to be more closely aligned with the GLEs and to make them clearer and more consistent. The expectation is that in nearly every case teachers’ plans for the previous version will work with the new version with only minor tweaking. As an example, here is an analysis of the differences between the old and new versions of the High School Causes of Conflict assessment. If you break the HS Causes of Conflict assessment into its elements, it is asking students to:

  • Take a position on what caused a conflict.
  • Look at a conflict from more than one perspective.
  • Use primary sources to support their response.
  • Cite 3 or more sources.

These elements (with the possible exception of the last one) are in both the old version and the new version. The difference (as you have probably figured out already) is that we are hoping to have students tie every part of their response to their overall position.

So, while in the previous version, if a student was analyzing the causes of World War I, she might:

  • State her thesis that the desire for natural resources in Africa and Asia was the primary factor for causing the War and explain this factor in some depth.
  • Explain how other factors also caused the war, including entangling alliances and ethnic tensions in the Balkans.

Now, the hope is that the response will be a little less "list-like" and more a coherent position paper so that for a response, a student might

  • Still state her thesis that the desire for natural resources in Africa and Asia was the primary factor for causing the War (as stated before),
  • but include some mention of the fact that she thinks economic factors are primary in this case (i.e., the economic perspective) and also
  • Explain how looking at the war from another perspective supports the position that the main cause was the desire for natural resources. For example, in looking at the war from a political perspective, the student could explain how entangling alliances were also a factor in causing the conflict but they were still not a primary factor. She could make the argument that without the competition for resources, alliances across Europe could have still functioned without sparking a world war.

However, in the end, the distinction between the old and new version is fairly subtle when it comes to substance - in fact, you could argue that the newer version is more manageable because it requires only two perspectives (or factors) to be discussed while the old version requires three.

What is OSPI’s advice to local districts with respect to the use of strategies other than the OSPI-Developed Assessments to meet RCW 28A.230.095?
OSPI strongly recommends using the state-developed assessments to meet RCW 28A.230.095 rather than having districts/schools/teachers create their own alternatives for multiple reasons:

  • It is the surest way to be in compliance with the law.
  • Many, if not most, of the SOPI-Developed Assessments are already very flexible and thus, could be adapted to existing assignments without the need to create a completely new assessment (the “Dig Deep-Analyzing Sources” assessments are the best examples of this in Social Studies). Moreover, for all of the Social Studies assessment, including the Constitutional Issues CBA, students can develop a paper or presentation which can be done in a variety of ways. As it states on each title page, “students may do a paper or presentation in response to the CBA provided that for either format, there is documentation of this response that someone outside their classroom could easily understand and review using the rubric (e.g., a videotaped presentation, an electronic written document).”
  • The assessments developed by OSPI have been vetted my educators, experts, and policymakers to ensure their alignment with required state standards. Since the purpose of the law is to ensure that students have an opportunity to meet the required state standards in civics (as well as other areas of Social Studies), it is crucial that districts are using assessments that are truly aligned to these standards.
  • The legislature put civics and the requirement of a civics CBAs under a spotlight when passing the civics portion of RCW 28A.230.095. Hence, it is the area for which the legislature are most likely going to ask for specific data from districts on how they are documenting students opportunities to engage in classroom-based assessments in civics. There is a legitimate concern that if teachers and districts do not report the use of assessments with some common elements (i.e., OSPI's Civics CBAs), the legislature will make the law more prescriptive.
  • OSPI does not currently have the capacity to vet individual proposals for alternatives from districts, let alone individual teachers.

Based on districts verification reports from the 2008-*09 and 2009-10 school years, the majority of districts are using the OSPI-Developed Assessments to meet RCW 28A.230.095. Our general advice with respect to other strategies is that any strategy for assessing these areas needs to be rigorous, based in research, aligned closely to the Washington State EALRs, and able to measure individual student achievement. Promoting these three criteria for any assessment option ensures that students will be held to the standards laid out in education reform laws.

back to top

Introducing the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments

What is the first step?
This is, of course, a judgment for teachers to make based on the needs and abilities of their students. However, teachers should make sure that the rubrics are discussed with the students before they start any assessment-related unit. This allows the students to adjust their efforts in a manner that maximizes their performance. Other introductory activities might involve discussing the purpose of the assessment, reviewing relevant vocabulary, content, or concepts, or having students practice relevant skills, such as analyzing primary sources. Each of the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments contains teacher directions that provide additional suggestions for ways to introduce the assessment. All assessment documents can be found at

What motivation is there for students to complete an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment?
The flexible structure of the assessment enables it to be introduced as another meaningful assignment students need to complete as part of their course work. Therefore, we anticipate that teachers will use this structure to make it as worthwhile as possible for their students – as they would with any other project or task they would assign. Moreover, most of the assessments provide some choice for students as they complete their responses and we anticipate that the opportunity to make this choice will be motivating for many students.

back to top

Completing the Final Student Response

Can a student’s final assessment response be part of a group effort?
In short, it cannot. Although individual assessment work may grow out of preliminary group work, the final response is a means for students to demonstrate they can independently apply their learning. Final responses should represent the individual’s own work and should be scored using the OSPI-developed rubric.

How can a teacher ensure that the final response is, in fact, the student’s individual effort?
As with any meaningful assignment, professional judgment and vigilance will be the key to ensuring that student work is their own. To deal with issues of plagiarism, there are several free online resources that may prove helpful (e.g., the Phi Delta Kappan has a list of resources for teachers that may be helpful To ensure that students do not receive excessive “coaching” from others in completing their assessment, teachers use a variety of strategies. Some ask students to complete the final student response in class in front of them. Others allow students to do work outside of class but conduct short, directed interviews with students to ensure that the work is the students’. Research papers or speaking presentations that require work outside of class may necessitate the collection of additional evidence (e.g., note cards, outlines, data collection, presentations) to verify that the finished product is the student’s own work.

What should a final response to an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment look like?
Final student responses can be a paper or presentation and come in a variety of formats. As it says on the title page of each assessment, students may do a paper or presentation in response to the assessment provided that for either format, there is documentation of this response that someone outside their classroom could easily understand and review using the rubric (e.g., a videotaped presentation, an electronic written document). In other words, the response needs to display the same level of rigor and cohesiveness regardless of the format. However, in addition to this basic rule, it is important that students be given the opportunity when completing an OSPI-Developed Assessment to engage in authentic intellectual work. Authentic intellectual work allows students to do three things: construct their own understanding of a topic or issue, engage in disciplined inquiry using a few core concepts to explore something deeply, and see the value beyond school of their work. Therefore, students should ideally be given some choice in the topics they select, the resources they utilize, and the positions they take. Having all students write or present the same response in the same way on the same topic does not, in fact, allow students to meet the essential academic learning requirements in Social Studies, the basic goal of all OSPI-Developed Assessments. Hence, teachers are strongly encouraged to allow students to have, at least, some choice when completing the assessment.

How much teacher feedback is allowed as students are completing OSPI-Developed Assessment responses?
Given that assessment responses should reflect a student’s own work, there needs to be a clear distinction between providing needed clarification as opposed to inappropriate assistance which could lead to an invalid representation of what a student can independently accomplish. For example, providing scores on the rubric is appropriate feedback, but specific suggestions like “your thesis needs to address the causes of conflict” or “’pursuit of happiness’ is not stated in the Constitution” are not appropriate. Other examples of appropriate feedback include:

  • Providing input on aspects of the paper or presentation not scored on the rubric. (e.g., “You need to check for spelling errors.”)
  • Allowing students to engage in peer editing groups that focus on aspects of the paper or presentation not scored on the rubric.
  • Indicating whether something is in the paper or presentation or not (e.g., “the response references one primary source instead of the two required for proficiency”)

Moreover, it is important to note that prior to having students complete their final response, teachers can engage their classes in activities designed to help students practice elements of the assessments. For example, a teacher who wants her students to complete the “Constitutional Issues” assessment might first have the whole class analyze and take positions on the issue of gun control. During this experience students could receive as much feedback as the teacher deems necessary. When the teacher feels the class is ready, she should then have students individually analyze and take a position on other issues without feedback or guidance.

To what extent can peer responses and editing be used as part of collecting assessment responses?
Similar to the response to question #20, while peer editing can be a valuable instructional tool, use of peer feedback during the completion of CBA responses should be approached with caution. Unrestricted peer editing has the potential of invalidating the sample as the student’s own original work. Again, the final student response to an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment should be an individual effort.

May students revise assessment responses that do not reach proficiency and submit them for re-scoring?
Districts may adopt policies to allow students to be given opportunities to revise their work. As long as the work remains the product of the student’s efforts, revision is a reasonable alternative to starting over again, particularly on longer projects. It would not be appropriate for the teacher to give a lesson, or other direct input, specifically addressing issues the student encounters while completing or revising a response. At the completion of the revision cycle, the teacher should be able to verify that, to the best of his or her knowledge, the sample is the student’s own work.

The overarching guideline for teachers administering an OSPI-Developed Assessment is to ensure that each final response to the assessment is an “individual student effort.” These assessments are to be used to find out what each individual knows and is able to do; therefore, significant aspects of the performance (particularly the final performances) must be done by students working independently of other students.

If students do a presentation instead of a paper as their final response to the OSPI-Developed Assessment, what should be the format of the presentation?
The presentation can be done in a variety of forms (e.g., videotaped PowerPoint presentation, speech). However, teachers should make sure that these presentations are in a format that could be sampled, understood, and even scored by an outside reviewer using the rubric. For example, if students do PowerPoint presentations in response to an assessment, their teachers should electronically collect evidence indicating that these presentations met the criteria in the rubric. Specifically, for PowerPoint presentations, this may require videotaping the presentation or asking students to type out the script of what they plan to say in the notes section of each slide. Bulleted statements alone or disjointed collections of evidence are typically not adequate for reaching proficiency on an OSPI-Developed Assessment rubric.

If students choose to write their final student responses to the OSPI-Developed Assessment, is their writing supposed to be persuasive or expository or both?
Previous versions of the assessment have used the word “persuasive” in their prompts in an attempt to do two things: 1.) ensure students were including their own analyses and evaluation in their responses and 2.) help teachers and administrators see the clear link between the state’s Writing GLEs and the Social Studies CBAs. However, given the specific way that persuasive writing is evaluated by the Writing WASL tests, the new, refined rubrics for the Social Studies CBAs for grades 6-12, use the word “position” instead - every CBA at the secondary level asks students to take a position when completing their response. In other words, students must do more than restate information they have found. Instead, they should draw conclusions based on an analysis and evaluation of the information. In this way, they are, in essence, trying to “persuade” their readers that their conclusions about the issues or events they are analyzing and evaluating are well-grounded. That said, many of the assessments do not require students to write in the exact format required by the persuasive writing prompts for the WASL tests. For example, while all OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment responses should have numerous elements outlined in OSPI’s Persuasive Writing Checklist (e.g., elaborating by using reasons, specific details as evidence to support the arguments), several responses do not require students to have other elements from this checklist (e.g., considering opposing arguments, using persuasive techniques that urge or compel the audience to support the position, concluding with a call to action). In the end, having students complete the secondary assessments can help students develop their ability to write persuasively but the rubrics do not include all of the elements required by the persuasive writing prompts used in the WASL. OSPI will continue to work to develop guidelines and support materials for the assessments to help teachers and administrators see how the Social Studies assessments support their efforts to improve students’ reading and writing.

At the elementary level, some of the assessments ask students to take a position but most require students instead to draw a conclusion after analyzing and explaining information. As a result, the assessments for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade levels ask students to do more expository writing, with the exceptions of the “You Decide” and “What’s the Big Idea?” assessments recommended for 5th grade.

back to top

Scoring the Assessments

Who scores the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments?
How can the scoring be done reliably? Each teacher will usually serve as the primary scorer of their students’ responses. Therefore, it is important that teachers responsible for Social Studies teaching receive formal scoring training. A given teacher should be able to acquire consistent scores across time using the scoring rubric. In addition to this training, districts can assure that scores are more reliable if a percentage of responses are scored by at least two scorers who can compare notes and resolve differences by reviewing “anchor” papers. Such cases of “multiple” scoring are done to increase reliability – however, they are implemented at the district’s discretion rather than being a state requirement. Raters should also frequently refer to the scoring rubric to ensure that they are not informally changing the criteria over time.

Where can teachers find opportunities for training on scoring the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments?
Given funding, OSPI tries to provide training on implementation and scoring of assessments at a variety of conferences throughout the state. ESDs that have received funding from the Federal Teaching American History Grant program have also offered and will continue to offer assessment training to teachers in their area (ESDs 101 and 112 are two such ESDs). In addition, there are usually OSPI-Developed Assessment-related sessions at conferences put on by the Washington State Council for the Social Studies (WSCSS), WERA, WSASCD, and other state organizations.

How do district scorers know that their scores are consistent with other teachers across the state?
In addition to trainings, OSPI has developed scoring guides which can be found online at Additionally, the anchor papers may be used to assist scorers in the scoring process. Anchor papers are student papers that have been selected as examples of performances at the different levels of the scoring rubric. These papers provide a comparison set for scorers as they score the student responses. Please note: the current s anchor papers online use an old version of the rubrics. OSPI plans to update these anchor papers in the near future. Additionally, districts may choose to develop anchor papers of their own. OSPI recommends removing the student names and then using the samples to clarify to both students and parents the expectations set forth through the scoring rubric.

Does the information in students’ responses to the Assessments have to be accurate to be credited?
Absolutely. A student can only earn credit if she/ he provides accurate information in the assessment response. At the same time, OSPI has developed a suggested rubric to help teachers deal with cases in which students provide both accurate and inaccurate information within a response. Specifically, this rubric states that students are eligible to receive a 4 (i.e., “excellent”) for a particular criterion if the response “contains no inaccuracies.” A response can only earn a 3 (i.e., “proficient) for a particular criterion if it “contains a few minor inaccuracies that do not contradict or weaken the overall response.” The response can only earn a 2 on a criterion if it “several minor inaccuracies or one or more major inaccuracies that contradict or weaken the overall response.” And finally, a response can earn no more than a 1 for a particular criterion if it “is largely inaccurate.” However, since terms like “major” and “minor” will always be subject to some interpretation, local schools and districts are encouraged to develop more specific rules tailored to specific assignments.

Will teachers be offered release time to score the Assessments?
Release time would certainly facilitate the consistency with scoring the assessments since teachers would have the opportunity to meet together when evaluating their student work. For this reason and other benefits, some districts are planning to make release time available for teachers so that they can work together when scoring the assessments. However, the legislature has not indicated that release time for the assessments is something they would be willing and able to fund on a large-scale. Hence, the vision for the assessments is that they will be used in tandem with existing assignments that teachers are already asking students to complete. In many cases, teachers have reported that the OSPI-Developed Assessments are not an add-on but rather a slight modification of a culminating assessment that they were currently using to see if students had met the standards targeted in a particular unit.

How does a student pass an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment?
What constitutes passing or reaching proficiency? Students have successfully met standard by earning a score of “3” (proficient) for all criteria included in the rubric. Given that the student should be shown the rubric before they begin work, this is seen as a reasonable expectation.

What happens if a student does not pass an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment?
Since RCW 28A.230.095 only addresses district-level accountability, there are no consequences from the state if a student does not meet proficiency on an assessment. However, we anticipate that most teachers will assign some sort of grade or credit to the work done for the assessment as they would with any other worthwhile assignment they give.

How can the results of the assessments be used to help improve teaching and learning?
The results of the performance assessment can be used to improve instruction and the assessment process. What did the teacher learn from the student responses? How can this be used to improve future classroom instruction? What did the teacher learn about the performance assessment or the scoring rubric? How can these instruments be improved for future instruction? The information that is acquired through classroom assessment should be actively used to improve future instruction and assessment.

back to top


What does the “implementation verification report” look like?
What will each district have to submit to the state each year? Districts are required to report if “assessments or other strategies” in Social Studies, The Arts, and Health and Fitness, including classroom-based assessments in civics, were administered at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Results from the verification report will be posted on the OSPI website. Additionally, districts have the option to report other optional information such as the number of students completing a specific assessment. OSPI recommends that each district designate a staff member to be responsible for ensuring that the assessment and reporting requirements in RCW 28A.230.095 are met.

What should a district do if students are enrolled in courses through Running Start?
It should be noted that the requirements related to assessments are not a "graduation requirement" (RCW 28A.230.095) - in other words, the state is not requiring individual students to pass an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment in order to graduate. However, districts have always been required to ensure that all students have an opportunity to meet the EALRs and GLEs in each of the required academic areas. If a student is participating in Running Start, it is presumed that the district is still ensuring that the courses this student takes allow them to meet the required state standards. Hence, if students are taking Running Start courses that count towards state Social Studies requirements, the district should report if they are engaging in an OSPI-Developed Assessment or "other strategy" while in these courses as stated in the law (RCW 28A.230.095). In sum, the law asks districts to report information on what opportunities students have to learn the EALRs in Social Studies(civics, in particular), The Arts, and Health and Fitness regardless of where students are taking their courses.

Are students who take advanced placement (AP) or international baccalaureate (IB) courses exempt from doing the OSPI-Developed Assessments?
Given the way the law is written, if students take an AP exam or IB assessment in a Social Studies area, districts can report this as the “assessment or other strategy” used to meet part of the requirements of RCW 28A.230.095. If the AP or IB test is being used to meet the “classroom-based assessment in civics” requirement in this same law, then this test needs to address student understanding of rights and responsibilities and/or the structure or function of government (e.g., AP Government test). However, OSPI recommends that these students still participate in completing an OSPI –Developed Assessment in their courses for two reasons. First, many students who take an AP or IB course do not take the test. If they do not, at least, take the test, then districts will not be able to report that these students participated in completing an assessment. Second, the assessments promote best practices and are well-aligned with the goals and strategies promoted by the AP and IB programs. For example, the “Dig Deep-Analyzing Sources” assessment is similar to a Document-Based Question from the AP exams. Consequently, many AP and IB teachers have little trouble integrating an OSPI-Developed Assessment into their courses, particularly after students have taken the AP and IB tests. The assessments provide these teachers with an opportunity to give more immediate feedback to students as well as to their district and the state on how well students are doing.


Should students in ELL programs or students with disabilities participate in completing the OSPI-Developed Assessment or other strategies related to RCW28A.230.095?
Yes. The state law related to the assessments does not say anything about exempting certain groups of students and thus, OSPI expects that districts will make efforts to have all students engage in an assessment or other strategy to ensure these students have opportunities to learn the EALRs in the arts, health and fitness, and Social Studies. That said, there are two main points to note when it comes to having students in special education and bilingual programs do an OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessment:

  • Nearly any and all accommodations are already appropriate when doing an OSPI-Developed Assessment (as opposed to taking a WASL test) provided that they are consistent with the validity of the assessment. For example, students already can have unlimited time to complete the assessments, the student can speak their response into a tape recorder, rather than write it, etc. (see next FAQ for more on accommodations as well as earlier FAQs for how to include an OSPI-Developed Assessment in an existing unit or course);
  • The state is not collecting data on how well students are doing on the assessments at this point and OSPI does not dictate how teachers should grade the assessments. Therefore, if students can only do a part of the assessment because they do not yet have the skills to do the whole assessment, they are still participating in the assessment and having an opportunity to meet, at least, some of the state's standards. Thus, the state requirement is still being met.

What accommodations can be made when students are completing an OSPI-Developed Assessment or other strategy?
While the flexibility of the assessment already enables accommodations to be made without any formal guidelines, OSPI does have some recommendations on how to help all students reach proficiency on the assessments. First, all students are eligible for certain accommodations. For example, students may have as much time as they need to complete the task. In addition, students with limited writing skills may type their responses, and students with limited English-language skills may have the prompts read aloud to them. Such assistance should not include suggested responses. Second, students should have access to any accommodations outlined in their individualized education plans (IEPs) that are also appropriate to the validity of the assessments. For a comprehensive list of possible accommodations for students participating in assessments, please read OSPI’s “Washington State’s Accommodations Guidelines for Students with Disabilities” ( WAC 392.172A.03090 provides additional guidelines related to assessment procedures for students in special education.

How can teachers develop kid-friendly materials to help students complete the OSPI-Developed Social Studies Assessments? Are teachers allowed to change the wording in the OSPI assessment materials yet keep the ideas the same?
It is important to remember that the rubrics are the one standardized component of the assessments. If teachers are able to modify support materials that help students meet standard as defined in the state-developed rubrics, then these modification are not only OK but welcomed. The trick is modifying these materials without changing the task or the requirements.

How should districts address the elementary civics CBA requirement if their schools has 4th/5th grade and 5th/6th grade split classrooms?
There are a few options. The law states: “Beginning with the 2008-09 school year, school districts shall require students in the fourth or fifth grades, the seventh or eighth grades, and the eleventh or twelfth grades to each complete at least one classroom-based assessment in civics.” So, the clearest solution would be to have both classes focus on a civics CBA (e.g., You Decide or Whose Rules?). In this way, every fourth or fifth grader would have the opportunity to complete a CBA in civics. The downside to this approach is that students will be doing civics for two consecutive years (rather than alternating with another area of Social Studies) and 6th grade students will have to look back towards a CBA designed for the 5th grade (which often happens in a split/combination class). Given how the law is written, it seems that students in the 5th/6th split would have to do a civics CBA for both years. The only way to avoid this scenario would be to have all of these students do their civics CBA in the 4th grade. The students in the 4th/5th split could more easily rotate between a civics CBA and another type of Social Studies CBA every other year provided that students stayed in this class for the two years (ensuring that they would get a civics CBA at least one in the 4th or 5th grade). In sum, the 5th/6th split is more of a challenge than the 4th/5th split in determining how to meet the Civics CBA requirement but there are, at least, some options.

back to top


Old Capitol Building, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA  98504-7200  (360) 725-6000  TTY (360) 664-3631
Contact Us    |    A-Z Index    |    Site Info    |    Staff Only    |    Education Data System (EDS)