Common Core Essential Elements (CCEE) Frequently Asked Questions

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Common Core Essential Elements:

Q. Do teachers need to know all of the standards for all grades in both English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics?

It is important for teachers to fully understand and develop cirriculum using the standards for the grades in which they teach. In order to develop cirriculum for a grade level it is important to understand what was expected of students in the grade before and what will be expected in the grade after.


Q. When should teachers start using the Common Core Essential Elements (CCEE)?

Teachers should begin aligning curriculum to CCEE immediately.  CCEE for English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics were adopted by Wisconsin DPI in June 2012. Statewide training took place during the 2012-13 school year. Teachers can access online professional development materials at  


Additionally on this webpage, is the implementation timeline that can assist teachers during this transition. All teachers should be utilizing the CCEE for ELA and mathematics by 2014-15 as this is when the new alternate assessment will assess the skills found within the CCEE. The Extended Grade Band Standards will still be used for Science until CCEE for Science has been created and adopted by the state.


Q. Within the Common Core Essential Elements (CCEE), what instructional achievement level is considered proficient? 

Each standard has four instructional achievement levels (Levels I-IV). A student will have demonstrated mastery/proficiency of the standard at Level III. A student at this level demonstrates content knowledge and skills at a level aligned with the complexity of the CCEEs. For more information in IALDs please see


Q. How do teachers determine a student’s current level of performance in ELA and math?

Common Core Essential Elements Baseline Checklists have been developed to assist teachers in determining student performance.  These checklists can be found at


Q. Do we need to address all standards at each grade level?

It is important to address all of the standards at each grade level.  To provide maximum coverage of all of the standards teachers could take a thematic or unit approach to address standards in both ELA and math.


Q. What are Instructional Achievement Level Descriptors (IALDs)?

Instructional achievement level descriptors (IALDs) describe performance at four achievement levels based on the CCEEs and are accompanied by examples at each achievement level. They provide teachers with information about the level of knowledge and skills expected of their students, they provide an elaboration that teachers can use to help guide instruction towards achievement expectations. Each IALD is further clarified by a range of examples. The four performance levels are level I, level II, Level III and level IV. Mastery is considered to be demonstrated at Level III and level IV.  A general description of each level is as follows:

  • bulletLevel I – A student at this level attempts to perform tasks with support.
  • bulletLevel II – A student at this level demonstrates some content knowledge and skills from the CCEEs linked to grade level standards.
  • bulletLevel III – A student at this level demonstrates content knowledge and skills at a level aligned with the complexity of the CCEEs.
  • bulletLevel IV – A students at this level demonstrates content knowledge and skills at a higher level of complexity than those described for Level III.
Q. Can a student’s instruction based on Common Core Essential Elements (CCEE) for one content area and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for another content area?

No, a student’s instruction must be based on either the CCEE or the CCSS. The CCEE have been developed for students with significant cognitive disabilities and provide a foundation for students to achieve skills related to academic content. IEP teams determine which set of standards a student’s instruction is based upon.


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Functional/Adaptive Skills:

Q. How do teachers address both Common Core Essential Elements (CCEE) and functional/adaptive skills for students?

Both academic and functional/adaptive skills are important for students to learn. Functional/adaptive skills, depending on each student’s IEP, can be infused in the curriculum based on CCEE. It is important to recognize that functional/adaptive skills should be infused in academic skills rather than academic skills infused into the functional/adaptive skills.


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Participation in Alternate Academic Achievement Standards:

Q. Who are the students that participate in alternate academic achievement standards?

Students who will participate in alternate academic achievement standards are:

  1. within one or more of the existing categories of disability under the IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] (e.g., autism, multiple disabilities, traumatic brain injury, etc.);
  2. students whose cognitive impairments may prevent them from attaining grade-level achievement standards, even with the very best instruction

(U.S. Department of Education, Alternate Achievement Standards for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities Non-Regulatory Guidance, August 2005, p. 23).


The determination regarding which set of standards a student’s instruction is based on is an Individualize Education Plan (IEP) team decision. The determination is not based on a categorical disability label but on the level of academic functioning of a student.


Q. Can the Common Core Essential Elements (CCEE) be used in any way to modify the Common Core State standards for students with specific learning disabilities?

No, curriculum developed using the Common Core State Standards should be adapted or modified to meet the student’s needs. The CCEE are alternate academic achievement standards and do not provide the depth of knowledge that is in the Common Core State standards.


It is important to practice caution when making determinations about which set of standards a student will access. Except for the very few students with significant cognitive disabilities, students with disabilities will access the general education curriculum through the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The decision to use the Common Core Essential Elements (CCEE) should be made only after careful consideration of potential long-term impacts such as limiting a student’s opportunity to learn and reducing the access to general education curriculum.


Q. How does the IEP team decide whether to follow the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or the Common Core Essential Elements (CCEE) for students in early childhood?

IEP teams will need to make decisions about which standards to follow in Kindergarten. This may be very challenging for the IEP team. If an IEP team is uncertain whether to follow the Common Core State Standards or Common Core Essential Elements, the IEP team should opt for following the Common Core State Standards.  This will give some time for the team to evaluate the student’s performance of the knowledge and skills in ELA and Mathematics before determining the student should be following an alternate set of standards. Once the team has determined that a student should be engaged in curriculum developed from the Essential Elements it will be very difficult to switch back to curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards.


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Q. How do educators address grade-level instruction in multi-grade classrooms?

It is important to understand the CCEE concepts and skills addressed in each of the grade levels that you are teaching. There will be a need to individualize instruction based on the grade level standards knowing that the skills and concepts in the CCEE build upon one another as a student progresses through the grades.


Q. How do “prescribed” curricula align with CCEE?

This has not been completed by publishing companies yet, and may not be completed. Therefore it may be up to you and your district to complete this alignment to determine if you have gaps that you may need to fill with additional curriculum.


Q. How do educators align current materials/curriculum to CCEE?

Educators should review their curriculum and see where it matches the concepts and skills found in the CCEE. Educators need to determine the gaps between current materials/curriculum and the grade level CCEE. A crosswalk or matrix could assist educators in this process. Once gaps have been identified, areas of curriculum with little to no alignment to the CCEE will become the basis for curriculum development and instruction.


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Alternate Academic Achievement Standards for Science and Social Studies:

Q. With no new science and social studies standards, what do educators use to guide instruction?

Until new alternate academic achievement standards are developed for Science, the Extended Grade Band Standards will continue to be used to create curriculum and will be used to assess students with significant cognitive disabilities talking an alternate assessment.


Social Studies are still part of the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and curriculum will continue to be developed adapting these standards. A checklist will continue to be used for alternate assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities engaged in alternate standards. Social Studies will continue to be assessed at 4th, 8th and 10th grades.


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Professional Development:

Q. What is the process, regionally or locally, for increasing a special educator’s understanding of the continuum of the CCEE and how they implement these new standards?

All educators should be involved in district professional development opportunities related to the Common Core State Standards. This knowledge base will inform the work that DPI has done related to the CCEE. DPI has developed a three year plan to roll out the CCEE. This plan lays the foundation for the CCEE, provides guidance on developing, aligning and implementing the CCEE and finally provides information on assessing and evaluating the CCEE. In the first year of the plan, 2012-2013, it was important to provide staff development opportunities state wide, regionally and at the local school district level to provide awareness and understanding of the CCEE. During the following two years, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, professional development becomes a regional and school district level commitment to provide teachers and parents, opportunities to develop instructional practices and strategies, align local formative measures of student progress and implement the use of the CCEE in the development of local curriculum to meet these standards. Information from past workshops and professional development materials and modules can be found at


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Q. Is there information that educators can share with parents about the CCEE?

DPI has developed a brochure for parents that explain the CCEE and where to find additional information. This is available at: Additionally, information has been shared with statewide parent groups and parents have been included in CESA and school district training opportunities.


Q. How do educators explain the importance of both functional skills and academic skills when the parents’ priorities are focused only on functional skills?

Academic skills and standards are intended for all students. The development of both academics skills and functional skills (e.g., self-care, recreation and leisure, and independent living skills) helps to ensure that students reach their maximum potential. Additionally, the development of both academic and functional skills helps to prepare students for a more independent life after high school. Educators should infuse functional skills into the academic lessons in order to help students make real-life connections.


Q. How do educators assist parent in understanding the range of ability level within a CCEE compared to the CCSS?

It is important for parents to understand the relationship between the CCEE and the grade level CCSS. Grade level materials are modified and changed to meet the needs of students with significant cognitive disabilities. There is a distinct difference in the rigor of the two sets of standards. A student’s proficiency is relative to their grade level and the standards to which they are being instructed.


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For questions about this information, contact Erin Faasuamalie (608) 266-1785
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