This fact sheet is intended to help parents, educators and administrators learn more about how UDL and the Common Core Standards align with each other.
UDL is included in the section of the Common Core Standards called “application to students with disabilities”. In this section the authors referred to the definition laid out in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (PL 110-135).The reference to UDL in this section may give the impression that UDL is just for students with disabilities. However, UDL not only applies to students with disabilities, it applies to all other learners as well. All students can benefit from the types of instruction used to reach learners “on the margins,” as the learning needs of all individuals vary a great deal. As such, UDL should be used within inclusive general education classrooms.
Although this is the only specific mention of UDL, there are many concepts embedded throughout the Common Core Standards that are aligned with the UDL framework.
There are many ways in which the Common Core Standards align to the UDL framework. Curricula (goals, methods, materials, and assessments) designed using UDL put an emphasis on creating effective, flexible goals, and the Common Core Standards provide an important framework for thinking about what goals will be most effective.
UDL emphasizes that an effective goal must be flexible enough to allow learners multiple ways to successfully meet it. To do this, the standard must not embed the means (the how) with the goal (the what). What do we mean by this? One good example is from the Mathematics standards: “apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division and of fractions to multiply and divide rational numbers.” (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Grade 7, The Number System, 7.NS, item 2, p.48) This standard is flexible enough that all learners can meet this goal because it does not specify how it must be done.
Unfortunately there are also areas of the Common Core Standards that do not align with UDL, or would not be very good goals for a UDL curriculum unless certain terms (e.g. writing, listening, speaking and explaining) are interpreted in their broadest sense to make the standards flexible enough to remove barriers for certain students. Previously we mentioned that the teachers should not confuse the means and the goals. There are certain standards that do just that.
For example: "Tell and write time in hours and half-hours using analog and digital clocks" (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Grade 1, Measurement and Data, 1.MD, item 3, p.16). The problem with this standard is that it requires students to write time. This presents some learners with a barrier because the act of writing is difficult for them. In this case, express would be more appropriate than write, as it allows flexibility and avoids confounding the expectation with tasks that are superfluous to the actual goal. Or, the standard would align with UDL if “write” were interpreted to permit other forms of expression.
The National UDL Task Force works to incorporate the principles of UDL into federal policy and practice initiatives. Recommendations of the Task Force on teacher and faculty preparation to use UDL strategies were incorporated into the recently passed Higher Education Opportunity Act. Recommendations have been made for the reauthorization of ESEA (NCLB) and will also be made for IDEA. In addition, the Task Force seeks increased dissemination of information about UDL by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies. See the UDL Toolkit at OSEP IDEAs That Work on ED.gov.
The National UDL Task Force is comprised of more than forty education and disability organizations. View the complete list of organizations.
Please visit our website at udl4allstudents.com or contact Ricki Sabia at rsabia [at] ndss [dot] org (rsabia[at]ndss[dot]org).
The National Center for Universal Design for Learning also contains information about UDL, resources for UDL implementation, and research. It also includes a community section.
Last Updated: 09/06/2011