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Powerful and Authentic Social Studies (PASS)

Do you want to:

  • Make your students active, eager learners?
  • Align your social studies curriculum with state or national standards?
  • Design assessments that help students master subject matter?
  • Energize both experienced and new teachers?
  • Offer social studies instruction that is systematic and valuable?
  • Graduate informed students who will be active citizens?

Partnering with National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) in the professional development of your staff can be the best way to renew your social studies programs, energize your teachers, sharpen their focus, and raise your students’ achievement. NCSS, the architect of the national social studies standards, is nationally recognized as the leading resource for professionals who seek continuing social studies knowledge and learning activities throughout their careers. The PASS professional development program is one of the most powerful instructional tools available to you in your efforts to provide your teachers with a high-quality professional development experience and to offer your students an excellent education.

What Is PASS?
PASS stands for Powerful and Authentic Social Studies. It provides social studies educators with professional training in curriculum design, assessment, and instruction in a standards-based environment. It offers a systematic approach to teaching social studies based on widely accepted standards for top quality social studies programs. The scholarly foundations of PASS are the NCSS statement on Powerful Social Studies Teaching and Learning (incorporated in the national social studies standards) and the recommendations of the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools. PASS training establishes educational communities of teachers who are equipped with the principles and practices that lead to powerful and engaging social studies teaching. PASS professional development also trains teachers to be trainers themselves and to take PASS principles and practices back to their schools, where they can share what they’ve learned with their colleagues.

PASS Goals
The fundamental goals of PASS are:

  • Better teaching
  • Higher student achievement
  • Promotion of a culture of continuous improvement among teachers.

Educational research shows that when teaching meets high standards of practice, the academic achievement of students is advanced. Teacher satisfaction also increases as student achievement goes up. PASS programs give teachers what they need to meet the high standards of practice necessary to increase the academic achievement of students.

PASS Materials and Resources
PASS sets consist of DVDs, manuals, handouts, and transparencies. The resources include sample curriculum units, assessments, and instructional videos. In the interactive sessions of PASS workshops and seminars, participants compare their evaluations of these resources with the evaluations by the writers of the manuals.

PASS Training
PASS workshops take two days (12 hours), while PASS seminars last for five days (39 hours). A one-day PASS awareness session is also available; it is not, however, an effective substitute for a workshop or seminar. A two-day workshop provides teachers with a thorough understanding of PASS principles and practices, and prepares them to produce examples of PASS-based curriculum and assessments, and videos of their own instruction. A five-day seminar is a trainer-of-trainers program designed to develop a cadre of local trainers who can deliver PASS training and promote PASS principles and practices to other teachers. The five-day seminar includes the PASS training provided in the two-day workshop, and also offers intensive preparation in the design and production of curriculum units, assessment tasks, and instructional videos. In both cases, participants are expected to follow up on their training by forming groups in which they can exchange samples of their curriculum designs, assessments, and instructional videos with PASS-trained colleagues. Incentives for teachers to complete these activities, such as university credit or the use of staff development time, can be arranged by school districts.

Benefits for Your School
A PASS-trained teacher will provide students with:

  • Research and information-gathering skills
  • Engagement in subject matter
  • Effective participation in classes
  • Problem solving abilities
  • Writing activities that combine literacy skills with social studies
  • Civic awareness that has value beyond school

With PASS professional development workshops or seminars and the application of PASS principles, your teachers can be trained to meet the challenges defined by your school or school district. For example, PASS training can help social studies teachers incorporate literacy initiatives into social studies. Teachers can learn how to develop literacy strategies and weave them into their curriculum units, assessment tasks, and classroom instruction. For schools seeking to upgrade their advanced placement programs, PASS programs can help teachers focus on preparing students for advanced placement examinations as they design curriculum units, develop assessments, and provide instruction.

What Does PASS Provide?
PASS provides professional development for teachers in three key areas:

  • Curriculum Design
  • Assessment
  • Instruction

Curriculum Design
The training in curriculum design prepares teachers to create units of study that meet the objectives of social studies education, align with content standards, and fit into a coherent sequence of study. Teachers trained in PASS know how to emphasize key concepts; ask the right kind of focus questions; integrate benchmarks, concepts, lessons, resources, and assessment tasks; promote deep content knowledge; meet the content standards; and develop a student’s sense of civic responsibility.

PASS provides training in the design of assessment tasks that fit the intended learning outcomes of a standards-based curriculum. These tasks prompt students to organize information; acquire deep content knowledge; consider alternative perspectives; develop effective research skills; improve their oral and writing capabilities; and acquire problem-solving skills that are relevant to all aspects of their lives.

PASS trains teachers to instruct students in higher order thinking that propels them to seek deeper knowledge. A strong feature of PASS is its organization of effective classroom discussions--the kind that engage students in the exploration of central ideas, and allow them to identify relationships, construct explanations, draw conclusions, and solve problems. Teachers trained in PASS connect social studies disciplines with each other and instruct students in core democratic values.

What are the Differences Between Ordinary Professional Development and PASS?

Ordinary Professional Development

Isolated individual learning

Fragmented “one-shot” training

District-level, one-size-fits-all programs

Bureaucratically convenient

Outside the workplace

Experts telling teachers what to do

Skills that can be used by everybody and are therefore available in-depth to no one

Teachers as passive receivers

Adult learning as an add-on that is not essential to school

Measuring effectiveness by attendance at workshops

Powerful and Authentic Social Studies (PASS)

Learning both individually and in groups, such as school faculty and teacher networks

Coherent, long-range learning

School-based learning tailored to the needs of all students

Focused on student needs

Embedded in the job and closely related to both student and teacher needs

Teachers taking an active role in their own growth

Involvement of all teachers and instructional leaders in developing new approaches to teaching based on their needs

Teachers as active makers of their own learning

Adult learning as a fundamental way of teaching and a transformation of schooling

Measuring effectiveness by improvements in teaching and learning

PASS Highlights
Curriculum Units
All PASS manuals include sample curriculum units.

Assessment Tasks
All PASS manuals contain sample assessment tasks.

The following are excerpts of classroom instruction videos in the PASS sets.


  • Freedom of the Press in School
  • The Demand Curve
  • Where Do You Live? (A kindergarten classroom is organized into streets)
  • Slavery and the Declaration of Independence
  • Sloppy Sally (A community persuades a messy neighbor to reform)

Middle School

  • Reconstruction and African American Migration
  • Immigration
  • Driver’s License: At What Age
  • Life in Africa
  • Population in China

High School

  • The Atomic Bombing of Japan
  • Political Cartoons of the Progressive Era
  • Selecting Federal Judges
  • School Dress Code
  • Fair Labor Standards

What Educators Are Saying
Powerful and Authentic Social Studies (PASS) is a great professional development tool for social studies educators interested in connecting state standards with classroom teaching and student achievement. PASS supports key features of social studies teaching and learning advocated by the national social studies standards.
Marcie Taylor-Thoma, Coordinator of Social Studies, Maryland State Department of Education

I have found that PASS provides strategic professional development that is successful with both novice and experienced teachers. It goes to the heart of a standards-driven social studies curriculum, and gives teachers a deep understanding of how to integrate content, assessment, and instruction.
Stan Masters, Coordinator of Curriculum, Assessment and School Improvement, Lenawee Intermediate School District, Adrian, MI

As a former school administrator and current university educator, I consider PASS to provide exceptional professional development tools for both in-service and pre-service teachers. I use the materials both with my pre-service teachers and for distance education courses.
Gayle Thieman, Ed. D., Graduate School of Education, Portland State University, Portland, OR

Frequently Asked Questions about PASS

What is in a PASS set?
PASS (Powerful and Authentic Social Studies) offers print materials and videos for the professional development of both in-service and pre-service teachers. There are three different PASS sets: elementary, middle, and high school.
Each PASS set includes:

  • A general manual outlining the principles of PASS.
  • A specialized manual on the implementation of PASS principles at the appropriate school level (elementary, middle, or high school)
  • Reproducible handouts accompanying each manual
  • A set of transparencies for use with overhead projectors during PASS meetings
  • Two DVDs of social studies instruction (there are seven lesson excerpts on the middle and high school disks, and eight on the elementary disks).

What assistance does PASS offer for curriculum development?
Basic standards for curriculum development are identified in the general PASS manual. The specialized PASS manuals include sample curriculum units in the form of course overviews. In PASS workshops and seminars, these units are a focus of study, and participants discuss how well they meet standards of curriculum design. As a follow-up component of PASS training, teachers will design a unit of their own based on these standards.

What assistance does PASS offer for the development of assessment tasks?
Basic standards for assessment are identified in the general PASS manual. The specialized PASS manuals include sample assessment tasks and scoring rubrics for the curriculum units described above. In PASS workshops and seminars, these assessments are a focus of study, and participants discuss how well they meet the assessment standards outlined in the manual. These assessment standards are then applied to the assessment task teachers develop as a follow-up component to PASS training.

What role do the videos play in the sets?
The videos provide examples of classroom instruction on a variety of social studies subjects. Different subjects are dealt with at each of the three levels (elementary, middle, and high school). The teaching on the videos had to meet a sufficient level of quality to be featured in the PASS sets, but it is not presented simply as a model for direct imitation.
One aim of PASS is for participants in workshops or seminars to evaluate the teaching on video according to criteria outlined in the PASS manuals (the authors of the manuals provide their ratings, with which workshop and seminar participants can later compare their own). By discussing the lessons on the videos, PASS participants strengthen their own understanding of the principles of powerful and authentic social studies teaching.
The follow-up for PASS training is to have teachers apply these principles in their own teaching and to record an example which they will then share with a small cadre of colleagues formed during the PASS workshop or seminar.

How much do PASS sets cost?
Outside the NCSS professional development workshops and seminars, the price for each set is $279.00. A free copy of a PASS set is provided as part of a professional development workshop or seminar, and deep discounts are available for purchases by participants and by their schools or districts.

Can PASS be used in any area of the curriculum?
Although PASS was developed to enhance social studies teaching, its principles can be applied to the teaching of other subjects.

NCSS Professional Development Service

The NCSS professional development service offers PASS workshops and seminars conducted by NCSS professional development experts. These workshops and seminars train participants in the application of PASS principles to their classroom practice and/or the problems defined by a school or school district.

Options include two-day workshops (12 hours) or five-day seminars (39 hours).* The two-day workshops provide teachers with a thorough understanding of PASS principles and practices, and prepare them to produce examples of PASS-based curriculum and assessments, and videos of their own instruction. The five-day seminars are trainer-of-trainers programs designed to develop a cadre of local trainers who can deliver PASS training, and promote PASS principles and practices to other teachers. The five-day seminars include the PASS training provided in the two-day workshop, and also offer intensive preparation in the design and production of curriculum units, assessment tasks, and instructional videos.

NCSS professional development specialists can accommodate requests for scheduling that fits school or district needs: e.g., a two-day concentrated workshop beginning on Thursday afternoon and continuing throughout Friday, or two-day workshops on Friday and Saturday.

The cost of a two-day workshop is from $3,500 plus travel expenses; the cost of a five-day seminar is from $6,400 plus travel expenses.

For details about NCSS Professional Development Services, contact:
Joseph A. Braun, Jr., Ed.D.
Coordinator of Services
NCSS Professional Development
P.O. Box 413
Carmel, CA 93921

* A one-day PASS awareness session is also available, though it requires special arrangements for further training of participants.

To Purchase PASS Sets
A free copy of a PASS set is provided as part of a professional development workshop or seminar, and deep discounts are offered for purchases by workshop participants. PASS sets can also be purchased separately at $279 per set plus shipping and handling. For purchase by credit card (and for other ordering information) call 1-800-683-0812. Specify which set(s) and item number(s) you wish to purchase:

Elementary school DVD videos and manual
(item 104508)

Middle school DVD videos and manual
(item 104507)

High school DVD videos and manual
(item 104506)

How to order: Customers in U.S. and Canada only may use or call 800-683-0812.
All customers may e-mail, call 770-280-4196, or fax 770-280-4092, and customers outside U.S. and Canada
should use only these numbers and e-mail. Mail and P.O. Orders: NCSS Publications, P.O. Box 936082, Atlanta, GA 31193-6082 USA.
NCSS publications catalog and order form are available at

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