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ANet is a nonprofit dedicated to the premise that every child in America deserves an excellent education and the opportunities it provides. We pursue our vision of educational equality in America by helping schools boost student learning with great teaching that is grounded in standards, informed by data, and built on the successful practices of educators around the country.

Leveraging the vertical progressions in ELA: An introduction

By studying the progression of standards, educators can create a seamless flow of instruction from one grade to the next.

Leveraging the vertical progressions in ELA

Ladder of learning

As a teacher, it can sometimes feel like you’re starting from scratch every fall. When learning goals don’t extend from one grade to the next, it can be challenging for teachers to support students in building on and deepening their skills and knowledge.

Dig into one standard at a time so teachers have to internalize expectations and adjust plans based on new learnings.

The standards provide a clear progression of learning goals that flow from one grade to the next.  Anchor standards act as a sort of umbrella, giving us a big picture view of what students need in order to be college and career ready; grade-level standards offer additional specificity, outlining the discrete knowledge and skills students need to know and be able to do by the end of each grade.  Vertical Progressions act as a bridge between the anchor and grade-level standards, showing us how a given standard evolves over time and extends previous learning.

How can we leverage the vertical progressions for planning, instruction, and professional learning?
  • Use the progression to help provide differentiated small group instruction and remediation or extension opportunities for students
  • Match sample tasks from within the same standard progression to the appropriate grade level as a way of internalizing the expectations
  • Build investment and understanding of the rigor required from each standard by reading the grade 12 standard and making connections to college and career readiness. Then, trace the progression down to the grade-specific standard in focus so that each teacher has a better understanding of the greater goal they are working towards and what they can do within their classroom to ensure students are focusing on the right skills to get them there.

Here's an activity you can use in school-wide planning meetings to zoom in on one standard and study the Vertical Progression across grades.

In this activity, teachers trace a standard from one grade to the next, identifying how expectations for students change over time and using those new learnings to revise lesson plans.  By studying the progression of standards, teachers are able to pinpoint grade-specific expectations and create a seamless flow of instruction from one grade to the next.