Developing the Virgin Islands Standards of Achievement for Social Studies

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Since 2020, the Region 3 Comprehensive Center (R3CC) has been providing technical assistance for the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE) to update its academic standards. While R3CC has been assisting the VIDE to update the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards to become Virgin Islands Standards of Achievement (VISA) for mathematics, English language arts, and science, this post will focus on the new VISA for social studies.

Developing and implementing high-quality social studies standards have been key responsibilities of state education agencies since the early 1990s. The primary goals of this work include improving instruction and increasing achievement for all students, usually in the areas of civics, history, geography, and economics. The realization of these goals hinges, in large part, on a solid, evidence-based standards review and implementation plan.

VISA for social studies began as an update of the standards developed in 2000. An update was needed to bring in the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework, a national approach to developing social studies standards ( ). In addition to the C3 Framework, VIDE social studies leaders worked tirelessly to integrate inquiry standards, social justice standards, the Common Core State Standards for Literacy, and the Virgin Islands Cultural Standards into VISA for social studies.

All the hard work paid off when the new standards were approved by the Virgin Islands Board of Education (in August 2022) but then an implementation plan was needed. Working with experts in the field, funded by R3CC, an implementation plan was developed with five distinct phases.

In Phase 1, implementation mapping, the technical assistance team worked collaboratively with VIDE and key stakeholders to develop a tool to guide the work of each level of the system to support the new social studies standards implementation. The implementation map helped to set goals and create common language around social studies standards deployment.

Based on Phase 1, Phase 2 – gap analysis – identified resources to support implementation of the standards. The work included bringing teams of educators together to identify current tools and resources that align to the implementation map. The team then identified gaps in the resources currently available versus what resources are needed for each stage of VISA for social studies implementation.

Having built capacity with an implementation plan and gap analysis, the project was handed over to the VIDE for next steps, the last three phases. Phases 1 and 2 led to Phase 3, resource development. This phase will focus on the development of resources, identified as being needed during the gap analysis, to support the new social studies standards implementation. 

Phase 4, professional learning module development, focuses on the development of professional learning modules to support initial implementation of the standards. VIDE and stakeholders will work together to design and develop online professional learning modules, including a PowerPoint and facilitator guide for each module. Modules may include topics such as, Standards Implementation 101, a close read of the standards, and planning for and making sense of inquiry. These modules will be posted on the #GoOpenUSVI Microsite (an online platform that houses materials, discussed in a previous R3CC blog) so that districts, schools, and teachers can have easy access to resources. Phase 4 will also include the development of an additional module for administrators focusing on their needs to support initial implementation of the new social studies standards. 

The culmination of the social studies standards implementation work is Phase 5: curriculum development. Because the VISA for social studies are not based on a national set of standards, it is critical that VIDE educators develop curriculum that is clearly connected to the standards. Phase 5 will focus on the development of a common template for social studies curriculum creation. VIDE will then lead the development of a full curriculum, including links to resources, for each grade (K-12).

But this is not the end of the story. The five phases for social studies standards implementation will serve as a template to roll-out other VISA standards. While R3CC was not involved in all phases of the VISA for social studies work, it served as a thought partner, catalyst, and funder for the early implementation phases. Some say that Comprehensive Center work is just a pebble in the pond, but the ripples can touch others, so they too can benefit from the forward motion.