The Virginia Department of Education has officially adopted the 2023 History and Social Science SOLs. With these new SOLs comes several big changes you should be aware of.
In this blog post for Virginia teachers, you’ll find the reason for the changes, the timeline for implementation, and a list of the biggest changes to the upper elementary SOLs.
Why Change the Social Studies SOLs?
You may be wondering, why change the social studies SOLs? Many assume the changes were made in light of recent current events and to make the history SOLs more representative of all students.
While this is part of the reason for the changes, the bigger reason is that the VDOE is required to periodically update the Standards of Learning. By law, the VDOE must review and revise its standards every seven years. According to this timeframe, the History and Social Science SOLs were due for an update.
Timeline for Implementation
An area of confusion is when the 2023 History and Social Science SOLs should be taught. Originally, 2023-2024 was supposed to be a crosswalk year with full implementation the following school year.
But, the VDOE has since changed the timeline. Now, the 2024-2025 school year will be a crosswalk year and full implementation will take place during the 2025-2026 school year.
For more information about the timeline, download my free Virginia Teacher’s Guide to the 2023 History and Social Science SOLs. The guide includes information about other important dates such as when the curriculum framework will be adopted and what SOLs will be tested each year.
Biggest Changes to the History SOLs
Overall, the 2023 History and Social Science SOLs mostly do what the VDOE told us they would do—increase rigor and incorporate more African American and Indigenous Peoples history.
But, unanticipated changes do exist throughout most grade levels.
A change that has taken place across all grade levels is the way the history skills are organized in each grade level. In the previous versions of the SOLs, the first SOL for each grade level contained a list of social studies skills that should be taught throughout the school year. While the list of skills is mostly the same, they are no longer presented as a numbered SOL. They are now just listed as “Skills” within each grade level. Like with the previous SOLs, these skills are expected to be incorporated throughout all of the SOLs during the school year.
The other changes made to History and Social Science SOLs are more specific to each grade level. Vestal’s 21st Century Classroom specializes in content and resources for upper elementary (grades 3-5), so I have listed the major changes to those grade levels below.
For more information about the changes made to these grade levels, download the Virginia Teacher’s Guide to the 2023 History and Social Science SOLs. The guide provides a side-by-side comparison of every 2015 and 2023 SOL and a list of key differences between the two.
3rd Grade Social Studies SOLs
The biggest change to the 3rd-grade social studies SOLs is one that teachers will love… the SOLs have been completely reorganized! This may sound scary but, trust me, the way the SOLs are now organized is going to make your teacher life so much easier.
In the 2023 History and Social Science SOLs, everything related to a specific topic is grouped in one SOL. Previously, the content related to ancient world cultures was spread out across several SOLs. If you were teaching Ancient Greece, you would have to go back and forth between several SOLs to determine all of the information students were expected to learn about Ancient Greece. Now, all of the content related to Ancient Greece is grouped in one SOL. The same is true for all of the other ancient world cultures, geography, and economics content.
Be aware, that this has created a change in the way the SOLs are numbered but the information is much easier to locate.
Check out the list below for other major changes made to the 3rd-grade SOLs.
Virginia Studies SOLs
I hate to break this to Virginia Studies teachers but some of the biggest changes I have seen are within the Virginia Studies SOLs.
While the SOLs up until the year 1900 only underwent minor changes, the changes made to the SOLs after 1900 are significant. Some SOLs have been split or completely removed, and entirely new SOLs have been added.
Check out the list below for the major changes made to the SOLs from 1900 to the present.
U.S. History to 1865 SOLs
For many years, districts have had control over what standards are taught in fifth grade. While some districts use the Virginia Studies SOLs in fifth grade, other districts teach U.S. History to 1865. And, a few districts even have their own non-SOL standards that are used in fifth grade. The new 2023 History and Social Science SOLs specifically cite U.S. History to 1865 as the fifth-grade standards but, at the time of writing this post, the VDOE has not said whether this will not be required for fifth grade or whether districts will still have control over what is taught in that grade level.
The changes made to the U.S. History to 1865 SOLs are not nearly as significant as the changes made to the Virginia Studies SOLs. The biggest change is the addition of a new SOL (now USI.4). This new SOL has to do with how the Western Hemisphere impacted West Africa, specifically through the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Check out the list below for other major changes made to the U.S. History to 1865 SOLs.
The 2023 History and Social Science SOLs present some big changes for future school years in Virginia. These changes will present an initial learning curve, but implementing the revised standards will get easier with time and by having the right resources to teach the standards. I hope this information provides you with some clarity on what to expect with these new SOLs.
P.S.- Don’t forget to download the Virginia Teacher’s Guide to the 2023 History and Social Science SOLs for a more complete breakdown of the timeline and the biggest changes made to each grade level.
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