by Matt Doran
The emphasis on historical thinking and critical textual analysis has been one of the most positive developments in the field of social studies education in recent years. Reading Like a Historian, Document-Based Questions, Common Core Literacy in History, the C3 Framework, and the new AP U.S. History all place these skills at the forefront of effective history/social science pedagogy. While these have been important skills within the discipline for some time, they are increasingly being recognized as interdisciplinary skills as well. Accordingly, the myth that social studies must be a “backburner” subject can be thoroughly debunked.
At the 2016 National Council for the Social Studies Conference, I was excited to see how the new SAT is assessing and reporting on students' abilities to critically analyze history and social science related texts on the Reading, Writing & Language, and Math tests. The texts are drawn from a category of “U.S. Founding Documents and Texts from the Great Global Conversation.” These include, “engaging, often historically and culturally important, works grappling with the issues at the heart of civic and political life.” Students need to be able to: read historical sources, cite evidence to support arguments, and interpret informational social science graphics. On the Math test, questions involving problem solving & data analysis can assess students’ understanding of how to draw a reliable conclusion to a social studies research question.
Six full-length practice tests for the SAT can be accessed online here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/practice/full-length-practice-tests. To group the questions related to history/social studies, download the “Scoring Your SAT Practice Test” for each test and scroll to the section labeled “Get Cross-Test Scores” (green).
The inclusion of history/social studies textual analysis on the new SAT also demonstrates the increasing alignment of College Board initiatives. College Board recommends using the practice DBQs and Short-Answer Questions from the new AP U.S. History as SAT preparation tools. This is another positive step in the direction of developing the critically-minded students and citizens we need for the 21st century world.