Frequently Asked Questions
Standards and Core Curriculum
What are Learning Standards?Learning Standards are defined as the knowledge, skills, and understandings that individuals habitually demonstrate over time as a consequence of instruction and experience.What are the Learning Standards for Social Studies?
New York State has five specific content areas for standards:
- History of the United States and New York
- World History
- Civics, Citizenship, and Government
Taken together, these content standards, their key ideas and the performance indicators, define the Learning Standards for Social Studies for all students.
What are key ideas?Key ideas are the major domains (skills, knowledge, or ideas) that define fields of study or areas of learning. They define the respective learning standards in social studies.What are performance indicators?
Performance indicators are descriptions of student achievement expectations on the developmental levels of elementary (grades K-4), intermediate (grades 5-8) and commencement (grades 9-12).
What is a core curriculum?
The core curriculum is a content outline providing an additional level of specificity to the Learning Standards for Social Studies. Its guidelines assist local school districts in developing a PreK – Grade 12 social studies program.
How are school districts using the social studies learning standards?
The five social studies learning standards and the content outlines found in the Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum are used by local school districts to organize and plan a local curriculum. The standards, content, concepts, themes, and skills that make up the New York State Social Studies Core Curriculum, PreK–12, provide the broad outlines for social studies courses. Districts use these to coordinate their local social studies programs and prepare curriculum and instructional materials that address local needs and interests.
What social studies core curricular materials are available for teachers?There are many core curricular materials available to teachers online:
Learning Standards for Social Studies (, 100KB) defines the five Learning Standards, their Key Ideas, and Performance Indicators.
Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum (reprinted 2002) outlines the entire K – 12 New York State Social Studies program.
Social Studies Instructional Strategies & Resources: Prekindergarten Through Grade 6 (2003) – teachers can download the “Introduction” and the grade level they teach or are most interested in. The entire publication can be downloaded, especially for curriculum committees.
There are additional materials available. Please refer to SED’s Publications Catalog for the complete list of social studies publications, and visit the Social Studies Publications page for links to online publications.
What social studies textbooks or instructional materials would you recommend?
New York is a “non-adoption” state. It cannot recommend a particular textbook, piece of software, instructional resource, etc. School districts have the flexibility and responsibility to identify appropriate content and resources to help students achieve the NYS Learning Standards.
Suggestions: Contact the major educational publishers for catalogs and review copies of their materials. Consult colleagues at other school districts for recommendations. Attend a local, state, or national social studies council conference – all of which have publishers’ exhibits.
Regulations and Guidance
What is the graduation standard?In July 2005, the Board of Regents approved a proposed amendment to Section 100.5 of the Commissioner's Regulations to implement its policy for a four-year phase in of the 65 passing score on the five required Regents exams: English, Global History & Geography, Mathematics, Science, and United States History & Government.
- For students entering grade 9 in 2005: General education students must have at least two scores at 65 or above on the five required Regents exams and all scores at 55 or above.
- For students entering grade 9 in 2006: General education students must have at least three scores at 65 or above on the five required Regents exams and all scores at 55 or above.
- For students entering grade 9 in 2007: General education students must have at least four scores at 65 or above on the five required Regents exams and all scores at 55 or above.
- For students entering grade 9 in 2008: General education students must pass all five required Regents exams at a score of 65 or above.
Students who score at 65 or above on required Regents exams will earn a Regents-endorsed diploma. Students who score between 55-64 on a required Regents exam during the phase-in period may earn a local diploma, at the discretion of the local board of education. Students with disabilities will still have the safety net option of taking and passing the Regents Competency Test if they have not been successful on the corresponding Regents exam in order to earn a local diploma. This provision will continue for students with disabilities entering grade 9 prior to September 2010. The low-pass option of scoring between 55-64 on the required Regents exams to earn a local diploma will become a permanent safety net for students with disabilities, with no local option.
The Regents also approved an appeals process in which students who score within three points of 65 and have achieved the standards would be eligible to appeal if they met certain criteria. The Department is developing guidance, an application form for seeking a waiver, and a form for reporting to the Department the number of appeals sought and granted.
What are the graduation requirements for social studies?According to Part 100 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education relating to general education and diploma requirements, students must have 4 units of credit in social studies, which includes:
- 1 unit in American history; and
- 1/2 unit of credit in Economics and 1/2 unit of credit in Participation in Government or their equivalent as approved by the local public school superintendent or his or her designee or by the chief administrative officer of a registered non-public high school.
In addition, students must pass the following Regents examinations:
- Global History and Geography or an approved alternative
- United States History and Government or an approved alternative
For students with disabilities who fail the Regents examination in Global History and Geography, the local diploma requirements may be met by passing the Global Studies Regents Competency Test. For students with disabilities who fail the Regents examination in United States History and Government, the local diploma requirements may be met by passing the United States History and Government Regents Competency Test. This provision shall apply only to students with disabilities who are entitled to attend school pursuant to Education Law sections 3202 or 4402(5).
Please see the General Information & Diploma Requirements chart for complete information on the general education high school diploma requirements for students entering Grade 9 in 2002-2009.
What are the requirements in social studies for a student who wishes to earn a Regents diploma with advanced designation?
In social studies, the student needs to complete the requirements for a Regents diploma.
What other requirements are in New York State Education Law related to social studies education?Periodically, the New York State Legislature passes laws that have a direct impact on social studies curriculum and instruction. These laws are summarized in the following Education Law:
ARTICLE 17–INSTRUCTION IN CERTAIN SUBJECTS
Section 801. Courses of instruction in patriotism and
citizenship and in certain historic documents.
Section 801-a. Instruction in civility, citizenship and character education.
Section 802. Instruction relating to the flag; holidays.
Section 802-a. Instruction relating to general elections.
The full text of these sections is available in the NYSED Social Studies Leaders’ Guide: Prekindergarten – Grade 12.
What is the time requirement for social studies instruction each year?All students in New York State are required to receive social studies instruction at every grade level, prekindergarten – grade 12. According to the Part 100 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to General Education & Diploma Requirements, this requirement includes:
- Prekindergarten and Kindergarten: instruction in the content areas of English language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and the arts, including dance, music, theatre and visual arts; that is designed to facilitate student attainment of the State learning standards and is aligned with the instructional program in the early elementary grades. See Part 100.3(a)(3)(iii)
- Grades 1 – 4: all students shall receive instruction that is designed to facilitate their attainment of the State elementary learning standards in social studies, including geography and United States history. See Part 100.3(b)(1)(iii)
- Grades 5 – 6: all students shall receive instruction that is designed to facilitate their attainment of the State intermediate learning standards in the seven general curriculum areas: social studies, including geography and United States history. See Part 100.4(b)(1)(iii)
- Grades 7 – 8: all students shall be provided instruction designed to enable them to achieve, by the end of grade eight, State intermediate learning standards through: social studies, two units of study. See Part 100.4(c)(1)(ii)
- Diploma Requirements: all students first entering grade nine in 1985 and thereafter shall earn four units of credit in social studies in accordance with the following: such requirement shall include one unit of credit in American history; such requirement shall include one-half unit of credit in participation in government and one-half unit of credit in economics or their equivalent. See Part 100.5(a)(6)
A unit of credit is earned through completion of a unit of study and demonstrated mastery of the course requirements. A unit of study means at least 180 minutes of instruction per week throughout the school year, or the equivalent. See Part 100.1(a) and Part 100.1(b)
What is AIS (Academic Intervention Services)?AIS is additional instruction intended to assist students who are at-risk of not achieving the NYS Learning Standards in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and/or Social Studies.
Commissioner’s Regulations require the provision of AIS in Grades 4 – 12 based on a student’s performance on elementary, intermediate, and commencement-level examinations, no later than the beginning of the semester following a determination that the student needs such services.
For more information on AIS, please consult the following resources:
Section 100.1 Definitions (from Part 100 Commissioner’s Regulations)
Guidelines for Implementing Academic Intervention Services (memo from James A. Kadamus, January 2000) ( 70.97 KB)
Can a school replace the Participation in Government and Economics courses with either Advanced Placement (AP) Government or AP Economics courses?No single AP course can adequately address the focus and content requirements for both courses. AP courses in government may be an equivalent alternative to the Participation in Government core curriculum; AP courses in economics may be an equivalent alternative to the Economics, The Enterprise System, and Finance core curriculum. Equivalency is approved by the local public school superintendent or his or her designee or by the chief administrative officer of a registered nonpublic high school.
According to Part 100 Regulations, a unit of study means at least 180 minutes of instruction per week throughout the school year, or the equivalent. See Part 100.1(a)
A unit of credit is earned by the mastery of the learning outcomes set forth in a New York State-developed or locally developed syllabus for a given high school subject, after a student has had the opportunity to complete a unit of study in the given subject matter area. See 100.1(b)
Students first entering grade nine in 2001 and thereafter shall meet the commencement level New York State learning standards by successfully completing 22 units of credit. This includes a half unit of credit in Economics and a half unit of credit in Participation in Government or their equivalent. See 100.5(b)(7)(iv)(b)
Can a school replace Participation in Government and Economics in the senior year with AP European History, provided that the students study government and economics within that course and their other courses?No. Previously, some schools were granted variances by SED to offer this program; however, all variances have since been phased out. More recently, Economics, the Enterprise System, and Finance and Participation in Government have both been revised to reflect the New York State social studies standards and the national economics and civics standards. In Participation in Government, students are asked to investigate policy issues at local, state, national, and international levels. This was never the intent of AP European History. Please see the graduation requirements for social studies listed above. Does New York State require instruction in financial literacy?
Education in financial literacy is a component of the New York State (NYS) Learning Standards, and is supported by performance indicators (PIs) and core curriculum guidance materials across multiple learning standard areas. These PIs and guidance materials can be appropriately integrated across multiple subjects to further strengthen local school district instructional programs, are aligned to similar standards at the national level, and were developed with the expertise of specialists in financial literacy education. The PIs respect the tradition of local choice in New York State that empowers educators to select texts, identify products, and use a rich array of instructional strategies and activities to meet student needs.
Economics is one of the five NYS Learning Standards for Social Studies. It is a key component of building financial literacy instruction throughout prekindergarten – grade 12 education.
To help students achieve the learning standard for economics, all students must receive instruction in social studies at each grade level. At the commencement level, one-half unit of credit is required in economics (or its equivalent as approved by the local public school superintendent or his or her designee or by the chief administrative officer of a registered non-public high school).
A 2002 core curriculum Economics, The Enterprise System, and Finance (, 484KB) addresses concepts, themes, and skills in financial literacy including money management, an individual’s multiple roles in the global economy, credit, and compensation. This document contains a detailed section on financial literacy concepts in Part V, “Money, Finance, and Personal Finance” (see pp. 24-28), although the entire document provides a financial literacy framework. This core curriculum is also correlated to national standards for economics.
Complete information on the NYS Learning Standards and core curriculum guidance materials can be found online.
Where can I learn about education services for students with disabilities?
The Office of Special Education is the best source of information regarding State law, regulation, and policy governing the education of students with disabilities.
What social studies tests are given to PreK–12 students in New York State?In order to track statewide progress of students in meeting the five social studies learning standards, all students are required to take the following State examinations:
- Global History and Geography Regents – administered in June, August, and January
- United States History and Government Regents – administered in June, August, and January
What are the dates for the social studies tests this school year?
The Office of State Assessment maintains current Examination Schedules on its website.
Which students may be admitted to January Social Studies Regents examinations?
All students must complete their course of study before they are entitled to take a social studies Regents examination. Therefore, students who are completing their course of study in January or who have completed the course, albeit unsuccessfully, in a previous school year may take a social studies Regents examination in January. Schools may not administer January Regents Examinations to classes of students who are enrolled in a full year social studies course of study in Global History and Geography or U.S. History and Government.
The only circumstance in which schools are permitted to administer Regents examinations to students who have not completed the corresponding course of study is in the context of awarding “credit by examination,” as provided in Part 100.5(d)(1) of Commissioner’s Regulations. The purpose of that opportunity is essentially to acknowledge and reward students who have accelerated beyond the school’s instructional program and completed the course or its equivalent through other means. Students meeting the criteria are awarded credit by examination, allowing them to pursue more advanced material, presumably elective courses, in social studies or in another content area. The primary shortcoming with giving these tests prematurely is that students are being assessed in substantial parts of the social studies curriculum that have not yet been covered in their classroom instruction.
The rules governing this issue are provided in Section One, Page 5 of the School Administrator’s Manual (2013 edition) for the secondary-level testing programs.
The pertinent excerpt reads: “All students who have completed the course of study leading to a Regents examination or an occupational education proficiency examination have the right to be admitted to that examination.” The Department considers the converse to be true as well, that is, students who have not completed the course of study do not have the right to be admitted to the examination, and indeed must not be, except as allowed under Part 100.5(d)(1) of Commissioner’s Regulations.
Are the State assessments translated in other languages?
The Global History and Geography Regents and the United States History and Government Regents are available in Chinese (Traditional), Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, and Spanish.
All social studies tests administered in August are available in English and Spanish only.
Past copies of the foreign language editions of each test (except for RCT examinations) can be found on the Office of State Assessment Web site.
What are the Department-approved alternatives to State assessments in social studies?A current listing of all Department-Approved Alternative Examinations Acceptable for Meeting Requirements for a Local or Regents Diploma is available on the Office of State Assessment website.
- The AP World History Test is an approved alternative to the Global History and Geography Regents with a score of 3 or higher.
- The AP United States History Test is an approved alternative to the United States History and Government Regents with a score of 3 or higher.
- The SAT II United States History Test is also an approved alternative to the United States History and Government Regents with a score of 560 or higher. In addition to achieving the established score, students must complete a multi-source, in-depth research project that demonstrates the ability to use primary and secondary sources.
Can a student be exempted from either Regents diploma testing requirement for social studies?The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education provide certain conditions under which a transfer student who has not previously been home instructed or attended school in New York can earn a diploma without meeting the requirements for passing the Regents examination in global history and geography.
Section 100.5(d)(5) of Commissioner’s Regulations grants high school principals the authority to waive certain testing requirements for a local or Regents diploma only for those students who first enter a New York State high school from another state or country in either Grade 11 or 12. For such students who first enter a New York State high school in Grade 11, “the principal may exempt a student from the requirement for the Regents examination in global history and geography.” For those who first enter a New York State high school in Grade 12, “the principal may exempt a student from the requirement for the Regents examination in science and the Regents examination in global history and geography.”
For transfer students who first enter a New York State high school from another state or country in either Grade 11 or 12 and who seek to earn a Regents diploma with advanced designation, the principal may exempt a student from the requirement for the Regents examination in global history and geography.
Transfer students seeking to earn a local diploma, a Regents diploma, or a Regents diploma with advanced designation must pass all of the remaining State examinations ordinarily required to earn that diploma. “Transfer students [who first enter a New York State high school in either Grade 11 or 12 and who are exempted from taking specific State assessments shall have their transcript and permanent records so annotated.” Principals may not waive any testing requirements for transfer students who were enrolled in a registered or non-registered New York State public or nonpublic school or who received home instruction in New York State for any or all of Grade 9 or 10.
What are testing accommodations for students with disabilities?Many students with disabilities require testing accommodations in order to participate in testing programs on an equal basis with their non-disabled peers. Such accommodations provide students with the ability to demonstrate mastery of skills and attainment of knowledge without being limited or unfairly restricted due to the effects of a disability.
For more information, the following documents are available:
What are New York State Alternate Assessments?The New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) is a data folio assessment for students with severe disabilities, in which students demonstrate their performance toward meeting the alternate performance indicator level of the New York State Learning Standards.
For additional information, please refer to the following webpages:
Who do I contact for more information about social studies at the State Education Department?Please contact the Associates listed below.
Curriculum, Instruction, and Instructional Technology Team: (518) 474-5922
- Patricia Polan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Office of State Assessment: (518) 474-5900