Your Role in the CCSS: Advocacy Action Items (Part 2)

In last week’s blog post, Your Role in the CCSS: Advocating for ELLs, I provided an equity audit table focused on the  Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and ELLs to help you take the pulse of the extent to which ELLs were being considered during your own school or district implementation of the CCSS.

In this week’s post, I’ll focus on some examples of advocacy action items and will provide some suggestions for collaborating to ensure ELLs are included more in the CCSS conversation. As a side note, we discussed advocacy for ELLs in the CCSS on Monday’s Twitter #ELLChat, and you can read the transcript of that chat on here on Storify.

As you may recall, the Equity Audit Table included six areas in which ELLs need to be included in CCSS implementation, although there may be other areas to focus on at your school. The areas were:

  • Role of the ESL teacher
  • Instructional materials & curriculum for ELLs
  • Professional development for all teachers of ELLs
  • Assessment that is equitable for ELLs
  • ELL parent outreach
  • Teacher evaluation that is inclusive of ELLs

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the two of the areas listed – the role of the ESL teacher and assessment. I’ll provide you some more resources as well as food for thought so you can be better equipped to advocate for ELLs with the CCSS in these areas.

Role of the ESL Teacher: Creating an Individual Learning Plan

Guiding Question: Are ESL teachers working as experts and consultants & collaborating with general education teachers in implementing the CCSS?

One way ESL teachers can be effective in their new role as experts and consultants in collaborating with general education teachers is to create a learning plan for each ELL, as is required by federal law for students found eligible for special education through the Individual Education Plan (IEP).  While ELL education and special education are often compared, ELLs are not required by law to have such a binding document to guide their instruction. Nevertheless, it’s an instructive practice and schools and districts can choose to create a framework or learning plan for monitoring ELLs’ equitable instruction, which I highly recommend as an important step in advocating for ELLs.

Case Study: Manassas, VA

One such plan comes from Manassas City Public Schools in Virginia, a district that has seen a dramatic increase in its number of ELLs in recent years. Even though VA did not adopt the CCSS, you can take the concept of this plan and adapt it for your context. Some teachers I recently worked with in Illinois – a state that did adopt the CCSS – were eager to adapt this plan for their own use.

Sample ELL Individualized Learning Plan

Manassas City’s instructional plan, which you can see in this template, facilitates the creation of two or more learning goals for each ELL twice a year:

  • First, the grade level/content teacher and the ESL teacher meet to discuss the appropriate classroom accommodations and strategies that will best meet the language needs of each ELL on a case-by-case basis. To do this they need to be familiar with the content standards and ELP standards at the student's grade level.
  • Then, those same teachers review the spring ELP assessment score and determine the subject area in which the goal is to be set and what language domain the goal covers (speaking, listening, reading, or writing).
  • Next, the team of teachers determines two learning goals per semester. The learning goals are based on the ELP scores, content standards, and the academic needs of the student. Learning goals must be academic in nature and supported by assessment data.
  • Finally, the teachers discuss their roles. In this case, ESL teachers are responsible for working with and sharing the learning goals with the ELL’s classroom or content area teacher(s) that may work with the student each semester. These teachers also include specialists such as special education teachers and art teachers. The grade level or content teachers are responsible for ensuring all learning goals are completed by the end of each semester.

This approach is used for all ELLs in the district and serves as a way to support the role of the ESL teacher as expert and advocate and increase collaboration between ESL and general education/content teachers. (You can see additional information in the complete handbook, available online.)

Individual Learning Plan and the Common Core

To adapt this plan or create your own ELL instructional plan that's linked to the CCSS, consider the areas below. It will probably take a few meetings to develop your own ELL instructional plan based on the CCSS. These considerations can guide your collaboration:

  • The demands of the CCSS in the ELL’s grade level: For example, analyze what the CCSS require for students to do in English language arts and mathematics in the different grade levels you serve. Also discuss what types of tasks general education or content teachers assign in the classroom as well as for homework and on assessments.
  • Which ELP standards (that are already aligned to the CCSS) guide instruction: Have a copy of your state's ELP standards nearby to discuss with general education or content teachers. If the teachers aren't familiar with the ELP standards, show the teachers how the ELP standards support the language demands of the Common Core for ELLs.
  • Which ELP assessment students take and what information the scores give you: Have ELP assessment materials with you to share with the teachers, and have your students' ELP assessment scores with you to determine how general education and content teachers can use the ELP scores to plan instruction and set objectives for students.
  • The kinds of scaffolds that should be used to support ELLs in accessing the CCSS: Have some sample strategies for scaffolding ELLs' instruction at the ready to share with these teachers. Together, decide which scaffolds for ELLs will be workable in these teachers' classrooms.
  • Student objectives that map to the CCSS and ELP standards: Together, consider which student objectives are achievable for ELLs in the content areas with the proper scaffolding and support. These objectives will differ by ELP level and content area.

Advocating for ELLs in CCSS-Based Assessment

Guiding Questions: Are teachers aware of the demands of CCSS assessments for ELLs and adjusting instruction? Are they using effective accommodations with ELLs in instruction and assessment?

To help advocate for ELLs with CCSS-based assessments, I recommend first bringing together content and ESL teachers at each grade level or content area in which a CCSS-based assessment will be given. Please remember to review both English language arts and mathematics assessments.

  1. First, determine which CCSS-based assessments your ELLs will be taking. Most states that have adopted the CCSS are either part of the PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessment consortium. However, some states that have adopted the CCSS don’t belong to either consortium (e.g., Georgia), so you’ll have to determine which CCSS-based assessment ELLs will be taking.
  2. Next, review sample test items. Work through each item at the grade level or content area as if you were the student. (You can find PARCC sample items released in October 2013 here. You can find Smarter Balanced sample items here.)
  3. Then, identify areas that will need attention. Outline what kinds of challenges these test constructs will present to ELLs at different levels of English language proficiency.
  4. Later, gather resources for your colleagues.  Look for materials and strategies that general education or content teachers could use to help ELLs work with the demands of the assessments at that grade level or in that content area. Take a look here for some ideas on third grade ELA PARCC assessments and strategies.
  5. Finally, model these strategies. Demonstrate the strategies with colleagues and/or meet with them to help them integrate the resources into their instruction.

Remember to maintain an ongoing dialogue with these teachers and check in with them on a regular basis to support them in using strategies that will help prepare ELLs for CCSS-based assessments.

Advocacy and Accommodations

In terms of teachers using effective accommodations in instruction and assessment, there are two steps you should take.  First, make sure you’re up-to-date on the accommodations that are allowed for ELLs on CCSS-based content assessments. For more information on the accommodations PARCC allows for ELLs, please see this blog post about PARCC’s accommodations manual. You can read more about Smarter Balanced’s approach to accommodations on this previous blog post.

In addition, you will need to advocate for ELLs’ access to accommodations in the CCSS-based assessments. To do this, work with teachers to determine which accommodations will be effective for ELLs at different levels of English language proficiency. Once the list of accommodations has been established, guide teachers in implementing those accommodations in their instruction so that ELLs are familiar with using those supports before they’re in a high-stakes testing situation. For example, on the Smarter Balanced assessments, ELLs are eligible to use a translated pop-up glossary. In this case, ELLs should be familiar with using a home language glossary in classroom instruction if they are literate in their home language.


I recognize that some of these suggestions for ELL advocacy action with the CCSS may create more work for ESL teachers up front, but ELLs and their teachers will benefit from better informed instruction and assessment. Please let us know what actions you’re taking to advocate for ELLs on the CCSS! We’d love to hear from you.


This is a wonderful resource! It's so helpful to break down what can feel like an overwhelming process into manageable steps.

One area where it gets tricky at the building level is the schedule of the ESL teacher. Secondary ESL teachers may have the same teaching schedule of 5-7 ESL classes with the same instructional responsibilities and plan time as content teachers. If time isn't built in for collaboration and case management and/or expectations for the ESL teacher are vague, it can lead to stress and misunderstanding. The stakes are high for everyone as student test scores become part of teacher evaluations. (Of course, the stakes for our students have always been high, so attention to their needs is welcome!)

I'd love to see sample schedules of teachers who are working in the important new roles of experts and consultants. Beginner ELLs still urgently need our intensive English-as-a-new-language instruction addition to their core content. It’s a lot to fit into a school/work day.

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