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In 2010, as the Common Core State Standards were simultaneously being developed, I was charged to recruit researchers, content experts, and master teachers from both general and special education from across the US to review research about how learning typically develops in mathematics, ELA, and science for all populations. Three separate committees worked on this project during 2010 in each content area - mathematics, language arts, and science. Committee members represented seventeen (17) different states, eight (8) colleges and universities, and seven (7) state or national educational organizations. Their task was to review and synthesize the research literature about learning in the content domain and collaboratively draft the conceptual learning progressions frameworks (LPFs). This work began with the identification of enduring understandings (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) for each content area and essential learning targets for the elementary (K‐ 4), middle (5‐8), and high school (9‐12) grade spans. Later we broke down the grade spans further to: K-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, and 9-12. Grade spans, rather than grade levels, were chosen for a very good reason: rarely did we ever come across a research study that specified learning at a particular grade level. Conversely, we found many studies that referenced such benchmarks as: by the end of grade 2, upper elementary grades, by the end of middle school, etc. A second very practical reason that we used grade spans is that we knew from personal experience that in any classroom and grade level, there is a range of learners at various developmental stages. It’s our job to locate where they are on the progression and move their learning forward.
Once a framework had been established, committee tasks were to then: (1) “zoom in” and break down specific targeted sections of the draft LPFs into what we called more detailed “mini progressions” for a smaller grade span, often adding some additional “interim steps” (progress indicators) to the mini progressions; (2) use the more detailed and focused mini progressions to design sample instructional modules (with a series of 4‐6 detailed lessons) illustrating how a teacher in the general education classroom might move students along this smaller grain‐sized learning progression using best practices in instruction; and (3) draw from best practices in instruction for students with significant cognitive disabilities to incorporate suggestions to each lesson plan for how to make the academic content more accessible for all students.
The final stage of development involved mapping progress indicators “back” to the Common Core State Standards. In most cases we found that only parts of standards aligned to particular progress indicators. This was interpreted as “teach this part of the standard before that part of the standard, guidance that might be useful to most teachers. We also discovered that some learning stages uncovered by research were not included in any standard (e.g., acquiring a range of reading strategies for different text types). We chose to include them, even if not aligned, as they were indicators of important learning.