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Curriculum & Instruction

Common Core State Standards - Essential Elements

All public schools in Michigan are held accountable to the Michigan academic content standards, known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The state has aligned with these national guidelines for English Language Arts and Mathematics.  Within the Language Arts area, standards are divided into: Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language.  The Math area is also divided into skills, yet these vary by grade level.  The CCSS are not intended to be a “curriculum”, but rather a set of research and evidence based standards that prepare students to be college and/or career ready and that are “real life relevant”. 

For our students, we focus on the Essential Elements of those standards. The Essential Elements (EE) are those key elements (content and skills) that are linked to the common core grade levels for students with significant cognitive disabilities.  We continue to use the Extended Grade Level Content Expectations (EGLCE’s) for Science. The Federal and State laws are clear, all students have the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, and that instruction will address state standards for instruction. Our classroom teachers design their lessons based on these Essential Elements and their alignment with the grade level standards outlined in the Common Core.  This allows them to create lessons that are research/evidence based as well as functionally relevant.  These standards are reflected on your student’s report card. 

If have questions or are looking for additional information regarding these standards, information is available at or

You may be asking yourself, “But what about my student’s functional needs?” At Cooke, teachers are able to address these content areas in ways that are functional for our students. The education your student gets at Cooke has your student learning about academic content in ways that also address their functional needs.  Teachers and therapists address their communication, sensory, and social/behavior needs throughout their units of instruction.


Community Based Instruction (CBI) 

Community Based Instruction is an important part of our program at Cooke. CBI provides students opportunities to learn and practice academic and life skills in the actual settings in which they'll be expected to apply them. CBI includes pre-teaching and follow-up activities, so that skills are introduced, taught and practiced, and then reviewed.  We are fortunate to have two buses that run nonstop all day, every day. We go to a variety of locations which include fast food restaurants (A&W, Sbarro, Arbys), retail shops, (Meijer, Target, K-Mart, Kohls, Twelve Oaks Mall), grocery stores (Kroger, Meijer), bowling, and swimming. At these sites, we practice related skills such as ordering food, standing in line, selecting items from a list, locating items, and appropriate social behaviors including interacting with strangers.

Vocational training is also an important part of our CBI. Our students train at many sites such as Olgas, Marywood, Wendy's, McDonalds, Good Time Party, Rebecca's, City Hall, and the Northville Library. At these sites, students get on-the-job training in custodial skills, paper shredding, laundry, food service, retail merchandising, etc. In every setting, however, the most important aspects of vocational training are appropriate worker traits and social behaviors. Our students learn that to be successful in a job they must show up every day clean and ready to work, be on time, follow directions, and get along with their coworkers.

Cooke School also offers two advanced phases of vocational training - Individualized Vocation Training and the Work Study program.

  • Individualized Vocational Training (IVT) is a program which allows student "interns" to train one-on-one with employers in community job sites. Students start with a job coach from the Cooke staff, but the coach fades away as the students become more independent. Students learn to take direction from workers at the job sites and to be less dependent on school personnel.
  • The final step in vocation training is Work Study. This is actual paid employment which is initially arranged and then monitored by the school. Cooke staff help the students apply and interview for jobs, coach them as needed, and work with the employers to evaluate the students' progress. It is our goal to help many of our students become successfully employed before they leave the school program.


In the big picture, the student’s curriculum is aligned to the essential elements. A student’s individual needs are then addressed in their annual Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which helps guide areas that may be impeding a student’s ability to progress in the curriculum, and at an older age what is impeding their ability to be independent in adult life. Although our students all have moderate to severe disabilities, we know that EVERYONE has the ability to learn and grow, and we always set high expectations for our students and support them in reaching their goals.