Paths for All

Implementing the Common Core for Unique Student Populations

March 2015

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The implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in New York City has come with an array of challenges. This is to be expected in a school system as large and complex as New York City’s. Yet too little attention has been paid to how Common Core affects three unique groups of students: English language learners (ELLs), special education students in district schools, and District 75 (D75) students who may be on the autism spectrum or have significant special needs.  

We identified several specific solutions to meet challenges faced by teachers and schools trying to best serve these unique student populations (USPs). We know that providing targeted parental resources, higher quality training, opportunities to collaborate for USP teachers and more differentiated curricular resources are vital to ensuring a high bar of academic service for all students. Furthermore, differentiated Common Core assessments must be developed so USPs can demonstrate their true academic potential.


  • Provide resources to parents of USPs through Common Core trainings, opt-in newsletters and a Common Core guide specific to USPs.

  • Allow teachers to have a full week of professional development before school starts to collaborate and give the option to collaborate in specialized groups during all-school PD.

  • Prioritize attaching differentiated and scaffolded materials to all lessons in EngageNY.

  • Give D75 teachers training to write IEPs that combine academic and functional goals.

  • Allow for more differentiation in administering assessments, including removing time limits, increased use of computer-adaptive tests and performance tasks.
    Challenges and solutions

    We identified several specific solutions to meet challenges faced by teachers and schools trying to best serve these unique student populations (USPs).

About the Teacher Action Team

We are a team of 10 educators who met regularly to discuss ways to improve implementation of the Common Core for USPs. We spoke with experts in the field, and discussed differing perspectives in order to create a set of actionable, New York–specific recommendations.

Samuel Copeland Special Education teacher at The Vida Bogart School for All Children, District 75

Mara Dajevskis Social Studies Teacher at P.S. 89 Elmhurst

Lexie Fichera 4th-grade Special Education Teacher, P.S./I.S. 49

Leona Fowler Special Education Teacher at P233Q @ 827, District 75

Rachael Goeler Special Education Teacher at P233Q @ Metropolitan High School, District 75

Julia Gonzalez 2nd-grade Special Education Teacher, P.S. 138 Brooklyn

Allison Leffage Special Education Teacher at P.S. K077, District 75

Joan Moon 6th-grade Inclusion Teacher, P.S. 86 Kingsbridge Heights

Rob O’Leary ESL Teacher at High School for Law and Public Service

Nina Rosemarie Uy 5th-grade Special Education Teacher atP.S./I.S. 49 Dorothy Bonawit Kole