K-12 Social Studies Program Improvement and Innovation Plan

Relevant details and data for the K-12 Social Studies Program

Program Overview

The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Social Studies program is aligned with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) History and Social Science Standards of Learning (SOLs). The purpose of social studies in FCPS is to:

  • Empower all students to be positive contributors to their local and global communities.
  • Construct their understanding of the past.
  • Apply knowledge to the present.
  • Explore their worldview.
  • Develop skills that transfer beyond the classroom.

By exploring diverse perspectives and experiences within American democracy and the interconnected histories of our world, students develop as informed, empathetic citizens who take action to improve their communities. 

Using performance-based assessments as part of a balanced assessment approach invites students to explore:

  • Big ideas
  • Essential questions
  • Real-world problems

By using critical thinking skills, and primary and secondary source analysis, students are able to create products and exhibit their learning to authentic audiences. 

Elementary Social Studies Program

In the elementary social studies program, students are introduced to a concept-based curriculum that fosters historical and disciplinary thinking skills at each grade level.

In kindergarten, students are introduced to concepts related to:

  • History
  • Geography
  • Civics
  • Economics with an emphasis on community

First, second, and third grade build on these concepts as students learn about their state, national, and world communities through the concepts of:

  • Chronological time
  • Physical and human geography
  • Citizenship education
  • Economic choices

The content studied in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades are divided into three different curriculums:

  • Virginia Studies
  • World History and Cultures
  • United States History to 1865

The elementary curriculum taught in FCPS aligns with the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL).  FCPS adheres to Virginia Board of Education guidelines and measures knowledge of grade level standards by using local alternative assessments.

Middle School Social Studies Program

In the middle school program, students continue to develop disciplinary thinking skills. These skills are integrated across new concepts and applied in open-ended, collaborative, creative, and rigorous tasks organized around powerful, relevant questions and ideas.

The middle school curriculum aligns with the Virginia Standards of Learning. FCPS adheres to Virginia Board of Education guidelines and measures knowledge of grade level standards by using local alternative assessments.

Grade 7

Grade 7 students use historical and geographical analysis skills as they examine American history since 1865.

Grade 8

Grade 8 students use skills to examine the roles citizens play in the political, governmental, and economic systems at the local, state, and/or national levels.

High School Social Studies Program

In the high school program, students dive deeper into disciplinary thinking skills and apply them to authentic performance tasks. Using inquiry based learning experiences, students:

  • Construct their understanding.
  • Demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Relate their learning to contemporary life.


The four courses aligned with the Virginia SOL needed for graduation are:

  • World History and Geography I,
  • World History and Geography II,
  • Virginia and United States History
  • Virginia and United States Government

Students can also select from over a dozen elective offerings and AP, IB, and Dual Enrollment courses.

Verified Credits

Students attain verified credit for graduation by using state created performance based assessments.

Scope of Impact

School Level Number of Sites Number of Students Served
ES 142 91,117
MS 26 28,755
HS 27 58,318

Actions and Measures

Updated for the 2022-23 school year.

Goal 1:

By the end SY 2022-23 students in grades 3, 4 (Virginia Studies), 6 (USI), 7 (USII), 8 (Civics and Economics) will advance authentic, equitable assessment practices as part of a Balanced Assessment Framework by completing a minimum of one performance-based assessment as required by VDOE. Students in high school social studies courses will experience PBAs as summative assessments in core and elective courses for at least half of their units.


  • Embed formative and summative performance-based assessments in grades 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11,12 planning and pacing guides.
  • Provide teachers Balanced Assessment Maps for grades 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 to support implementation of performance-based assessments (PBA).
  • Provide professional learning opportunities to build capacity around PBA implementation, balanced assessment practices, and inquiry design models.
  • Work with HS Social Studies Assistant Principals, Department Chairs, and teams to support the use of PBAs with students and gather information on existing use of PBAs as summative assessment in HS.


  • Survey the number of PBAs implemented by course in SY 2022-23.
  • Attendance and feedback from professional learning opportunities provided in SY 2022-23. 
  • Empathy interviews/surveys with teachers regarding the implementation of PBA.

Goal 2:

By the end SY 2022-23, all students in K-12 will participate in learning experiences that reflect the mission and vision of FCPS Social Studies and include implementation of Standard 1 Skills, Portrait of a Graduate (POG), and culturally responsive pedagogy.


  • Continue to audit, revise, and design curriculum resources for K-12 social studies to align with FCPS' mission and vision of Social Studies.
  • Collaborate with organizations, community members, and diverse teachers and staff to design transformative curriculum resources that reflect the mission and vision of FCPS Social Studies 
  • Provide professional learning opportunities for social studies teachers, instructional support staff (instructional coaches, resource teachers, SBTS, etc.), related content areas and school leaders focused on:
    • The use of Standard 1 skills and POG in social studies instruction 
    • Enacting a critical lens when selecting social studies resources and materials 
    • Designing and enacting social studies learning experiences that leverage the five Design Principles of Cultural Responsiveness to make culturally responsive decisions when planning for daily instruction.
  • Collaborate with HS Social Studies Assistant Principals and Department Chairs to design job-embedded professional learning opportunities within high schools


  • Count of professional development opportunities on implementation of Standard 1 Skills, POG, and culturally responsive pedagogy offered throughout the year.
  • Count of teachers attending professional development implementation of Standard 1 Skills, POG, and culturally responsive pedagogy.  
  • Teacher feedback on use of activities and resources in the planning guides for each unit.
  • Empathy interviews/surveys with social studies teachers regarding the implementation of Standard 1 Skills, POG, and culturally responsive pedagogy in their classrooms.
  • Number of students earning verified credit using VDOE, C3 Inquiries.