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Question 10:
How do we ensure we are meeting the academic needs of all students?

Introduction 1

Schooling should help all students achieve their highest potential. To accomplish this, students need to be provided equitable access to all areas of the curricula; appropriate high-quality instruction that addresses their needs and maximally advances their skills and knowledge; up-to-date and relevant resources; and settings that are physically and psychologically safe, respectful, and intellectually stimulating.

California’s students demonstrate a wide variety of skills, abilities, and interests as well as varying proficiency in English and other languages. They come from diverse cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, have different experiences, and live in various familial and socioeconomic circumstances. The greater the variation of the student population, the richer the learning opportunities for all and the more assets upon which teachers may draw. At the same time, the teachers’ work is more complex as they strive to provide high-quality curricula and instruction that is sensitive and attentive to the needs of individuals. In such complex settings, the notion of shared responsibility is particularly crucial. Teachers need the support of one another, administrators, specialists, and the community in order to best serve all students. Furthermore, it is important that, while teachers inform themselves about particular aspects of their students’ backgrounds, each population is a heterogeneous group. Therefore, teachers should know their students as individuals.

The California Common Core State Standards (CA CCSS) articulate rigorous grade-level expectations. These common standards provide an historic opportunity to improve access to rigorous academic content for all students, including students with special needs. All students should be held to the same high expectations outlined in the standards, though some students may require additional time, language support, and appropriate instructional support as they acquire knowledge of mathematics, and English language arts and literacy (ELA/literacy). Effectively educating all students requires diagnosing each student instructionally, adjusting instruction accordingly, and closely monitoring student progress. Regular and active participation in the classroom—not only reading and listening but also discussing, explaining, writing, representing, and presenting—is critical to success in mathematics and ELA/literacy. Not only do the instructional needs of each student differ from others, the instructional needs of individual students change over time. Therefore, high quality curriculum, purposeful planning, flexible grouping strategies, differentiation, and progress monitoring are essential components of ensuring universal access to the curriculum.

As instructional leaders think about meeting the needs of all students, there are several resources and tools available to consider, but the most comprehensive and widely vetted resources available to California educators is the State Board of Education-adopted Mathematics Framework and English Language Arts/English Language Development (ELA/ELD) Framework. With this in mind, this section will focus on helping instructional leaders answer the question above using guidance from the frameworks, viewing a video of multiple panels of instructional leaders discussing the question, and considering what all of this means for their work and local context.

Connections to the California Professional Standards for Education Leaders (CPSEL)


Education leaders facilitate the development and implementation of a shared vision of learning and growth of all students.
Element 1A: Student-Centered Vision
Leaders shape a collective vision that uses multiple measures of data and focuses on equitable access, opportunities, and outcomes for all students.
Example Indicators:
1A-1 Advance support for the academic, linguistic, cultural, social-emotional, behavioral, and physical development of each learner.
1A-2 Cultivate multiple learning opportunities and support systems that build on student assets and address student needs.
1A-3 Address achievement and opportunity disparities between student groups, with attention to those with special needs; cultural, racial, and linguistic differences; and disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.
1A-4 Emphasize the expectation that all students will meet content and performance standards.


Education leaders shape a collaborative culture of teaching and learning, informed by professional standards and focused on student and professional growth.
Element 2B: Curriculum and Instruction
Leaders guide and support the implementation of standards-based curriculum, instruction, and assessments that address student expectations and outcomes.
Example Indicators:
2B-1 Develop a shared understanding of adopted standards-based curriculum that reflects student content and performance expectations.
2B-2 Promote and monitor the use of state frameworks and guides that offer evidence-based instructional and support strategies to increase learning for diverse student assets and needs.
2B-3 Provide access to a variety of resources that are needed for the effective instruction and differentiated support of all students.
2B-4 Guide and monitor the alignment of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional practice.

Before you begin…

Prior to focusing on the question above, participants in this activity should be familiar with the following chapters of California’s curriculum frameworks:

Mathematics Framework

ELA/ELD Framework

On the next page, you will find a video that features multiple groups of instructional leaders from across the state. A Note-taking Guide (DOC) is provided to help you consider the perspectives shared in the video. You may want to review it before watching the video and print it or have it open on your desktop to have in front of you while you watch.

1Adapted from the Mathematics Framework and ELA/ELD Framework.