Assessment Resource Center for History
What is the ARCH?
Existing assessments of historical knowledge used in K-12 classrooms across the nation consist primarily of traditional standardized tools, which assess students’ retention of content. While content knowledge is certainly important, new instructional methods and standards shift the focus to building deep historical understanding through the analysis and interpretation of complex primary and secondary source documents. With the emphasis on critical reading and writing skills in the Common Core Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, these instructional developments necessitate a new form of assessment for the classroom.
The ARCH project, developed through a Teaching American History grant partnership between the Howard County Public School System (Maryland) and the Center for History Education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), is a framework for assessment that measures the process of historical thinking, as well as the retention of prior knowledge. As effective history instruction relies on active student learning of the reading, writing, and analytical skills involved in historical inquiry, effective assessment items should measure how well that learning has taken place.
The ARCH features four assessment types: weighted multiple-choice items, traditional multiple-choice items, performance tasks, and document-based questions. While sample items are included, the ARCH is not a test bank; rather, it is a resource to assist educators in developing and using new assessments and rubrics in their classrooms.