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Real Talk: Are you using the Common Core State Standards?

Are you a school-based speech-language pathologist? Can goal writing and therapy planning be exhausting? Do you ever feel a lack of purpose or perspective?

Well, are you familiar with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or your state's equivalent? Do you use or reference your state standards as part of your practice?

Well, let me suggest that you start taking advantage of the CCSS (or your state's equivalent*).

*I say "your state's equivalent" because not all states have adopted the CCSS. If you are in Texas (like me!), Alaska, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, or Florida, refer to your state's standards. Despite some nuances or additions, most of the state's standards outline similar skills and expectations.

Anyway! In case you aren't sure what I am talking about...

What are the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

In short, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (or your state's equivalent) are academic standards in (at least) Math and English/Language Arts/Literacy. Standards are provided for each grade K-12 and outline what a student should be able to do by the end of each grade, given appropriate instruction. The standards were created to ensure that students graduate from high school and that each student would be college, career, and life ready. Student success can be measured by achievement of standard skills.

So why should I use the CCSS and how can they help me?

1) As school-based speech-language pathologists, our purpose is to provide individualized and specialized instruction to our students, such that they are able to access the academic curriculum and meet academic standards.

If we want our students to access and meet curriculum standards, we should probably know what those standards are! 😉

2) It will make your goal writing and activity planning easier and more purposeful.

So how do I access these standards and how exactly do I use them?

Note: The following walkthrough is based on the CCSS. If you state does not use the CCSS, I linked your state's standards at the bottom of this post. The process will likely be similar for different webpages.

When you go to the CCSS website, you'll see that there are standards for a variety of subject areas. I have found that the standards in the English Language Arts/Literacy section tend to align best with my skill interests as a speech-language pathologist. The sub-categories that contain skills that best align with the skills I target as a speech-language pathologist are: Reading: Literature, Reading: Informational, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language.

Click here to jump to the CCSS English Language Arts/Literacy Standards page.

That webpage will open and you will see the screen below. On this page, you can download a document with all the standards for each grade level, or you can use the sidebar on the right to navigate through the standards online.

Let's put this in to practice. When might you use these? Say you have a kindergarten student who is due for an annual IEP in a couple weeks. You know from review of her evaluation data and therapy data that he struggles to comprehend and use abstract language, and you decide you want to work on helping him comprehend and produce a narrative. You are trying to write a goal and you are curious about what narrative-related expectations you should have for this student.

To see what the standards say about this, you can click on Reading: Literature (from

the screen above). Once you click it, a drop down menu will appear where you can choose which grade level standards you want to see. For this example, you'll choose Kindergarten, and it will take you to this screen (see right).

Once here, you can browse the standards and you'll be able to see some of these standards are closely related to narratives (see highlighted standards).

You now know that, by the end of the school year, this student is expected to:

👉🏼 ask and answer questions about key details in a text

👉🏼 retell familiar stories, including key details

👉🏼 identify characters, settings, and major events in a story

These are the end of year expectations and they can also become your goals! You can leave them written as is and add measurement criteria, or you can rephrase them as you please.

For example, you might say:

👉🏼 Student will answer story comprehension questions following a probe story with 80% accuracy.

👉🏼 Student will retell a narrative (story) including all (6/6) key story grammar elements (character, setting, problem, emotion, attempt, ending).

You can do this for any goal or language skill.

In the aforementioned example, I chose an approach before choosing specific goals-- but in many cases, you might evaluate which standards a student is not meeting or not on track to meet. Of those standards your student is struggling with, choose some goals. In some cases, you may identify core deficits that are keeping student from meeting a standard. In that case, you can write a goal for the core deficit (with the expectation that it will help the student achieve the standard) or you can include the core deficit as an objective to the overall goal (which is achieving the core standard-- which is the goal).

In case you are visual (like me), here is a visual/flow chart that describes what I just explained.

Evaluate child's level of current performance

(refer to therapy and classroom data)


Browse standards to see where the student is lacking (not meeting or not on track to meet)

(collaborating with the general education teacher (and SPED teacher if applicable) will make this step much quicker for you and effective overall)


Choose standards to serve as annual goals to guide goal writing


That's it.

Talk about expediting goal writing and making your efforts align directly with student achievement outcomes! Wahoo!

You don't need to overthink goal writing! Let the standards guide and support you!

But wait, there's more!

In addition to helping expedite and improve your goal writing, your state standards can also help you choose therapy contexts and activities that will give you a lot of bang for your buck! What I mean, is that the standards want students to be able to use language for particular tasks. In the example above, we saw that narrative retell and comprehension was part of the end of year expectations. What better way to practice that student's language deficits than in the same context that the student will be evaluated in all year?

If you scroll down, on the webpage we looked at previously (with the narrative retell and comprehension-related standards), you'll see the standards pictured below.

Standard #9 states that the student will compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.

Now that you know this is a task that the student will be expected to perform, you can embed your therapy into like activities. You can read a variety of stories and compare and contrast. Even if the student doesn't appear to have problem with a certain standard, it can't hurt to use the context of the standard to practice language skills.

You might as well get more bang for your buck! Practice those skills in a very relevant contexts. In that way, the skills you target in therapy are much more likely to generalize to tasks that matter to the student's academic success.

I hope this perspective can help you to:

1) better understand your role as an SLP in the school setting

2) feel more purposeful in choosing relevant goals and activities for your students

while reducing stress and unnecessary expenditure of effort on your part.

Utilizing my state's academic standards gives me perspective and purpose and directly impacts the way I write goals and choose therapy activities.

I hope it will do the same for you!

Links to State Standards

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