Key Issues Common Core State Standards

Two key issues that impact SLPs and their efforts to integrate the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into intervention are

  • addressing students with disabilities, and
  • considering the roles and responsibilities of the school-based SLP.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), states that all students must be provided with a free and appropriate public education. The CCSS' "Application to Students with Disabilities" [PDF] is a framework for considering the roles and responsibilities of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in relation to the Standards.

ASHA's document, Roles and Responsibilities of SLPs in Schools (2010) can help SLPs explain to other team members where speech-language pathology services fit in. The document outlines roles in four areas:

  • Critical roles
  • Range of responsibilities
  • Collaboration
  • Leadership

Each of these roles has a distinct and direct relationship to implementing the CCSS and provides opportunities for SLPs to become actively involved.

Critical Roles

SLPs fill a distinct set of roles based on their focused expertise in language. They offer assistance in addressing the linguistic and metalinguistic foundations of curriculum learning for students with disabilities, as well as other learners who are at risk for school failure or struggle in school settings (ASHA, 2010, p. 1).

SLPs can make unique contributions to CCSS implementation across grades K–12 for a wide range of students in general and special education; for example, SLPs can

  • help general education teachers implement CCSS with all students,
  • help students who struggle with acquisition of CCSS across Response to Intervention (RTI) tiers,
  • link CCSS with assessment and instruction or intervention to ensure that students' Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals are matched with communication needs, curriculum expectations, and classroom demands.

Related to expertise in language, SLPs

  • can focus on the language underpinnings of the CCSS during direct intervention with students and when SLPs work with teachers.

Range of Responsibilities

SLPs perform myriad tasks related to prevention, assessment, and intervention.

SLPs involved with RTI efforts may be called on to prevent or mitigate students' learning difficulties, including ensuring that basic language and emergent literacy skills are in place so that young students are prepared to meet the CCSS.

As members of RTI teams, SLPs can make valuable contributions to identification, problem-solving, and decision-making activities as they gauge student progress and growth on CCSS assessment data.

Because students with a variety of language impairments are likely to encounter difficulties mastering the CCSS, the SLP's role in intervention and instruction will be significant. Clinicians can help students develop, access, or use skills and strategies necessary to learn the curriculum. In assessment, SLPs can identify language skills that may be at the root of difficulties in achieving the standards.

For example, a fifth-grade standard requires students "read on-level prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings." The SLP can help the teacher determine why a student is having difficulty (e.g., determine whether the student does not recognize phrase boundaries when reading).

In order to evaluate the student for an underlying metalinguistic problem, the SLP can perform an informal, curriculum-based assessment in the classroom by

  • observing the student's performance during a specific activity
  • observing the student's general performance.

During intervention and instruction, the SLP can help the student with a disorder as well as others having difficulty meeting CCSS.

The English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects standards call for shared responsibility for students' literacy development. SLPs can contribute to the CCSS for Mathematics, which has a language component (i.e., discipline-specific vocabulary and syntax) and a communication component (i.e., the language of instruction).

The standard for "Kindergarten Reading-Informational Text, Key Ideas and Details" specifies that the student will "with prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text." To assist the teacher, the SLP can

  • work on fundamental vocabulary and syntax to prepare students with disorders to ask and answer yes/no and "wh" questions
  • work with other students who are struggling for similar reasons, but who are not receiving special education or related services.

The SLP can work with the teacher to develop classroom techniques to implement the standards and assist with differentiated instruction for students who are at different proficiency levels across the standards.

The sixth-grade language arts teacher is addressing the writing standard that calls for students to "write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence" and to "use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons."

The SLP can:

  • scaffold the abilities for a variety of students who may need more explicit instruction in formulating complex clauses
  • conduct a demonstration lesson on sentence combining, which the teacher can use as a model for helping students.


The increased challenges presented by the CCSS make it more important than ever for school-based SLPs to partner with others to meet students' needs.

Although designed to be implemented by general education teachers, the CCSS cannot be attained unless educators share responsibility for implementing the Standards. The integrative nature of the CCSS provides tailor-made opportunities for teachers and SLPs to combine their expertise and experience to create high-quality instruction. Collaborative efforts to achieve the CCSS can occur in a variety of instructional settings and address diverse student needs; the Standards are compatible with RTI frameworks and other service delivery models.


CCSS provide an opportunity for SLPs to play roles as leaders in school settings.

Leadership at this early stage of CCSS adoption is sorely needed. All educators need to appreciate the role of language in academic learning and to understand the complex language requirements at the core of the CCSS.

The CCSS provide a context in which to clarify and expand the roles of school-based SLPs beyond the narrowly defined "speech teacher." SLPs are in an advantageous position to explain or clarify the language issues connected with the standards. To facilitate collaboration, SLPs may need to take a proactive approach and explain to colleagues the potential contributions SLPs can make to helping students master standards.

Leadership roles extend beyond the classroom and school; the expertise of SLPs can be leveraged to shape and influence K-12 educational policies at the district and state levels.

The following section was adapted from: Ehren, B. J., Blosser, J., Roth, F. P., Paul, D. R., & Nelson, N. W. (2012, April 03). Core commitment. The ASHA Leader.

We gratefully acknowledge the authors' contributions to this resource.

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