In the Spring of 2020 educators, parents and caregivers around the world were presented with an unprecedented challenge. At the beginning of this pandemic, many took the approach of dealing with a national disaster or weather emergency, thinking that we would get through it in a few weeks and at once deal with the repercussions on learning loss. As it turns out, this crisis is continuously evolving, and the education community is grappling with how to best devise response plans that will enable our children to return to their education safely.  


In times of crisis, comfort and stability can be found in the known and familiar. For this, educators can turn to the standards. Standards based instruction allows for alignment and transparency in our educational framework. Students are given access to developmentally appropriate skills and content knowledge as they progress through the grades. Standards also provide a foundation to build upon as educators are creating and aligning lesson plans, activities, and assessments. Creating standards based instructional plans enables educators to create high-quality lessons that target specific grade level expectations. These expectations build throughout the grade levels, increase in depth, breadth, and complexity – creating an assurance that if students become proficient in these standards of knowledge and skills, they will be prepared for college, career and beyond 


A large part of re-opening schools focuses on creating plans identifying and addressing unfinished learning. To be truly effective and efficient with their instructional time, educators need to understand the progress of the standards across grade levels and how they represent student skills and knowledge. Progression maps are a tool that CenterPoint Education Solutions uses to demonstrate this progression of knowledge and skills quickly and easily. For example, if a student scores poorly on standard RL3.2 (reading literature in grade 3), a teacher would want to look at standard RL2.3 (same standard for grade 2) and identify how that standard has evolved and how the performance expectations have advanced. That will help the teacher determine if the student needs additional instruction from the previous year or the current grade level.  


What are Progression Maps and How Do You Use Them? 

Imagine that you are preparing for a road trip. First, you need to determine your destination. Once you know where you are going, you develop a route to safely get you there. Throughout this journey, you will plan check-ins for fuel, food, and lodging.  If you go too fast, you might speed past your turn, too slow and you might miss your arrival window. To have a successful trip, you need to know where you have been, where you are going, how to check your progress and make the necessary adjustments to your route to get to your ending point 


Progression maps can do the same thing as we plan for each students’ educational journey. Progressions maps show the differences in the standards from grade level to grade level. Below is an example from third grade. The green section of the table shows the third-grade standards. Looking at RL.3.1, the standard asks students to show understanding of a text referring explicitly to the text as the basis of the answers. Lets unpack this standard. From second grade to fourth grade, students are expected to ask and answer questions, referring explicitly to the text.  


Table of Progression Map


Progression maps not only help educators understand the language of the standards; they allow them to set expectations for students by understanding their starting and ending point. As data is reviewed throughout next year, many students will not show understanding of the full rigor of the standards. Educators will need to be prepared to back track and fill in these gaps using standards based instruction. Using progression maps can give educators the tools they need to accelerate closing the gaps in learning, while continuing to provide essential grade level instruction. Years of research indicates that the neediest students are often denied access to grade level knowledge and skills due to many factors, including a deficit mindset1. Having a deep understanding of the progression is one step in eliminating this access gap and propelling the vision of ALL students receiving a high-quality education, rooted in equity and inclusion.  


The progression map shows that in second grade, students were expected to ask and answer questions about the text, however, there are some key differences, outlined in red. In second grade, to show ability in the standard, students needed to supply who, what, when, where, why and how by sharing key details in the text. Referring explicitly to the text is not needed – that is a third-grade expectation. However, once a student advances to fourth grade, there is no longer a focus on asking and answering questions for standard 1. This standard increases in complexity, expecting students to refer to details and examples to draw inferences from the text 


Imagine you are teaching a class of fourth graders. After instruction, you give students an assignment to show their understanding of RL.4.1. In the assignment, students re-visit a text and are asked to respond to the following:  


  1. Choose one phrase or sentence from the text you read and re-state your understanding in your own words. Be sure to go back into the text and give examples that explain your thinking.  
  2. What connection do you make to your own life or what does this text make you think of? What evidence from the text helps you make this inference? 


After reviewing student responses, you might see that Jennifer was able to refer to the text but did not include an inference. This would lead you back to the progression map  looking at third grade, you can see that she needs additional instruction in drawing inferences to understand the standard. Johnny recalled the text and explicitly said the who, what, when, and where, but left out the why. By tracking back to the second-grade standard, you can see that he needs more instruction to demonstrate understanding of the key details in a text. Using the progression maps in this way, enables teachers to see the gaps in instruction and understanding and fill them in – individualizing instruction to the student, group, or class level. 




The CenterPoint progression maps are available in English language arts for kindergarten through grade 12. When planning instruction, educators can use the progression maps to target the grade level tasks and levels of understanding, while pinpointing where gaps may have occurred. Although most states did not require standardized summative assessments in the 2019-20 school year and many may not require them for 2020-21, they will need sources of assessment to understand their student’s strengths and areas of need. Data from formative, interim and diagnostic assessments informs instructional pathways. Educators can align this data to the progression maps –giving them targeted, grade level appropriate, and rigorous expectations for their students. Alignment is the name of the game as educators embark on this unprecedented journey. Having the tools to align  high-quality curriculum, assessments and professional learning opportunities will provide a roadmap to a successful – albeit ever changing  journey.  


Download Progression Maps