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Primary Document Analysis

Social Studies Lessons for High School is designed for social studies teachers to use with their government and history courses. It was developed in response to a shift in education throughout our country: a move away from rote memorization and toward the critical thinking skills necessary for many of the new performance assessment programs.

Each lesson will enable teachers to teach seven specific critical thinking skills in a step-by-step process. The information has been adapted for old media and new media formats. Web sites will be provided that will allow teachers to choose the most appropriate resource for the selected activity. All selections can be copied for classroom use. Teachers may adapt activities to allow students to complete assignments via the web.

Bob Black is former Teachers Network web mentor. He is a social studies teacher at the Harbor City Learning Center, located across the street from the historic Edgar Allen Poe House  in Baltimore, MD.

Sample Student Template Response

Students will utilize principles of economic costs and benefits, and opportunity cost to analyze the effectiveness of government policy in achieving socio-economic goals.

Model for Solving
The local government needs $10 million to repair aging schools and must decide on the best way to raise this money.

Describe the problem 
Q. Where will the government get money to repair schools?

Q. What other information do you have about it (people, issues, resources)? 
A. The current sales tax is $. 05 per dollar, local income tax is 55%, and the property tax rate is $2 per $1000. The council is up for re-election this year. About 65% of residents have children in the schools. There are many local businesses in the area which hire high school graduates.

Q. What is your goal in solving the problem?
A. To get the money without causing hardship to any one group of citizens.

Q. List all possible solutions/options.
A. Raise the sales tax; raise the income tax; raise the property tax; create a new lottery game; obtain corporate sponsorships; attract new businesses

Q. List the positive and negative aspects for each option.
Overall positives: all generate revenue
Overall negatives: most burden a certain group of taxpayers by limiting take-home pay, purchasing power, or home ownership

Q. Choose a solution and explain your plan for implementing it.
A. Corporate sponsorships because businesses can make donations and then benefit from a tax write-off. Have every major business in the community pledge a certain percentage of their profits for school repair.

Q. How does the solution meet the goal listed above?
A. The necessary amount of money will be raised without hardship on individual taxpayers or groups.

Q. How were you able to solve this problem?
A. I evaluated possible solutions and the cost factors involved to determine the most equitable response.


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