Wednesday, February 13, 2013

SLPs & Common Core State Standards: Fitting it All Together

Across the country, states are adopting the Common Core State Standards and Speech-Language Pathologists are trying to find where they fit in and what their role will be in implementing the CCSS.  It can be a very confusing journey with information still sporadic and resources being even harder to find.  We are often left with unanswered questions.

Missouri, the state that I currently work and live in, only recently adopted the CCSS (called Missouri Core Academic Standards) and we are beginning to see what changes it will bring.  Now, to be fair, there are individuals on both sides of the argument about the appropriateness of the CCSS, and other issues.  This post is not intended to be for or against the CCSS, but rather to inform SLPs of the impact it may have on their practice and some current resources available to them.

ASHA has been on top of this issue and has published several ASHA Leader Articles that provide several good pieces of information.  "Core Commitment", published in April 2012, details what CCSS are and how they impact students with disabilities.  Some key pieces of information from this article were:
  • The domain of English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical subjects is particularly reliant on a student's communication competence - the main focus of SLPs' work.
  • The CCSS are intended to serve as academic content standards for all students, including those with IEPs.
  • It is the primary responsibility of the teacher, not the SLP, to teach the standards.  But a critical role of the SLP with CCSS is supporting curriculum mastery and areas that CCSS implementation directly relates to their expertise in Language.
  • Clinicians can help students develop, access, or use skills and strategies necessary to learn the curriculum.
  • CCSS are designed to be implemented by general education teachers but the CCSS also recognize that attainment of the standards requires shared responsibility among educators.
  • No single model is recommended universally for collaborative partnerships; the most effective partnerships are generally those that are "locally grown" by teachers and SLPs.
A second article from ASHA, "Integrating the Core", published in August 2012, goes more in depth with specific roles of the SLP with CCSS.  A few key points were:
  • Educators and School Administrators may not recognize that the CCSS, academic outcomes, statewide achievement test scores, and annual yearly progress scores relate directly to school speech-language service delivery which may result in the perception that SLPs focus only on "correcting" speech and language skills that are impaired.
  • There is no better time than now to help educators, parents, and others understand the foundational underpinnings of language and literacy and the value SLPs can bring through intervention and collaboration with teachers (regular and special education).
  • One step SLPs can take is to obtain a summary of the progression of expectations for the content areas from grade to grade, and then determine the communication skills that would be required for meeting that expectation.
  • SLPs use either a standards-referenced approach (SLP and team develop the goals and then identify the standard that best matches that goal) or a standards-based approach (the standard serves as the starting point for generating the goals and objectives) to develop relevant goals and activities.
  • For students with severe disabilities, it is suggested that teams establish differentiated responses to enable students to meet curricular goals during standards-based learning activities.
  • Newly aligned assessments will be implemented in the next several years and are being developed to provide instructional, curricular, and assessment guidance and support.
  • 6 Principals can guide SLPs' efforts to integrate the CCSS in school-based programs:
    • Focus on Student Outcomes
    • Ensure Educational Relevance - the CCSS are interrelated and should not be taught in isolation.
    • Establish Distinct but Complementary Roles - work collaboratively to provide multiple types and levels of supports to students.  Focus on supporting the success of students and preparing them to access the curriculum, communicate to learn, and achieve academic goals.
    • Tools - use grade-level indicators to serve as checkpoints and help monitor progress.  You may use standards of a lower grade to ensure access to academic instruction at their level.
    • Address the Continuum of Need - The amount and type of services, as well as the location and provider of those services, should be matched to each student's ability and disability.
    • Focus on Academic Standards Does Not Preclude Functional Skill Instruction - students with severe disabilities should have access to standards-based curriculum and continue to receive support with functional skill instruction.
I encourage you to take a little time to read the articles in their entirety.  The have case studies and practical information that can be used/adapted in your schools.

After you have a bit of information about the CCSS and SLPs, it will most likely be time to figure out what that looks like in your school/districts.  Some districts are deciding what this will look like for their SLPs and others are allowing each SLP to use the CCSS as they see fit.  There are a few easy steps you can take to begin adapting your therapy and paperwork to more closely align with the CCSS.

Choosing Goals
  • When writing goals, state within/below the goal which standard(s) it supports.
  • Look to the standards for which areas of language a student will need as a foundational skill to access the standards-based curriculum.  A great SLP resource for this is Speech Peeps' (Nicole Allison) Common Core Standards Supporting IEP Goals for English Language Arts resource.  I have utilized this document for all of my IEPs since purchasing it!  It is available in K-5 as well as 6-12.
  •   Collaborating with staff can be a great way to support student success with the CCSS.  Each school is different but some ideas for collaboration are:
    • Providing small group assistance within the classroom.
    • Teaching a foundational skill lesson prior to the teaching of the main lesson.
    • Work with teachers to identify a student's strengths and weaknesses using work samples.  Suggest interventions if appropriate.
  • Collaborating with SLPs across your district can provide a great way to streamline CCSS paperwork, expectations, etc.  Consider meeting with your fellow SLPs to look at how you would like to see your district implement the CCSS in the area of speech and language.
  • Collaborating with your administrators can help facilitate communication and a clearer understanding of the expertise you bring to the table.  Consider sitting down with your administrator(s) and discussing your role within your school and standards-based curriculum.  This is also a good time to discuss any current RtI structures in place that would be impacted by language.
  • Assessments in the area of speech and language do not currently align with the CCSS.  To compensate for this, SLPs across the country have begun creating documents to better assess a student's abilities on meeting standards and accessing curriculum: 
    • Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has published and shared their Rating Scales for Oral Language Skills across grade levels.  This resource is a great starting point for creating a document for your school/district.
    • CoreStand has a lot of great resources and information (much of it for free) that can be used in developing assessments and progress monitoring.
    • Dr. Susan Floyd has been developing assessments and screeners aligned to the CCSS for communication.  According to the website, they are set to launch some of these this year.  A free handout is available which can also be used to tailor your own school documents.
Other resources available for creation of therapy materials, assessments, progress monitoring, etc:

I'd love to hear what your school/district is asking you to do to align to the CCSS.  Have you come across any additional resources that have been helpful to you in this endeavor?


  1. Great information as always! I created some goal lists to align with Common Core that are posted on my blog. It's definitely a learning process.

    Miss Thrifty SLP

  2. We tend to focus a lot of our efforts on the ELA standards. Check out the standards for geometry in kindergarten and you will find basic concept words---exactly what we work on!

  3. Thanks for the great post! We need all the info. we can get for how the common core standards and speech therapy mesh!

  4. This provides great information, Danielle! It's nice to see that we're all learning together. Thanks so much for mentioning me! I'm glad you like it!