The CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework (or the Framework) was written by the CUNY Adult Literacy PD Team to respond to the challenges facing high school equivalency (HSE) teachers and their students.

Why now?

As teachers in adult literacy and HSE education, our work has always been demanding. Now that our students face a new and more challenging HSE test, the demands on teachers are even greater. Teaching students to read, write and do math at the HSE level is no longer enough. Students need specific, deep and coherent content knowledge, as well as the capacity to apply this content knowledge to analysis and problem solving.

As the demands on our students and teachers are increasing, it is important that we don’t lose sight of one of our greatest strengths — our practice of starting from where students are and our serious respect for their learning processes. As a student of ours once said, “You can’t make a plant grow by pulling on it, you only make it rootless.”

We are committed to developing students’ capacity to achieve a high school equivalency credential, knowing that it opens the doors to further education and work.

What is the CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework?

The Framework provides direction, structure and materials for teaching math, science and social studies (integrated with reading and writing) in the new era of HSE instruction. It is a guide for planning your instruction – including topic recommendations, model lessons, guiding questions, readings, problems – not a step-by-step series of lessons. See the content section descriptions below.

The Social Studies section of the Framework integrates reading and writing through a focus on U.S. history, with extensions to civics, economics and geography. This section has a curriculum map, 12 unit descriptions, 6 model lesson plans and additional resources.

The science section of the Framework, focuses on matter and energy with extensions to science/math connections.  This section has a curriculum map, 23 unit descriptions, and 3 model inquiry-based lesson plans.

The math section of the Framework, focuses on problem-solving in functions and algebra. It integrates problem-solving strategies, productive struggle, perseverance and mathematical discussion into content learning. This section includes a curriculum map, model lessons, rich engaging math problems, samples of student work, powerful routines for math classrooms, classroom videos, and more.

The penultimate section presents interactive icebreaker activities and addresses modifications for lower level learners, mixed-level classes, youth populations. There are also resources for college and career planning that integrates research, decision making and graph interpretation. The final section has suggested PD activities.

Research-Based Best Practices

The Framework prioritizes depth over breadth. It does not address all of the content that might potentially be included on an HSE exam, but instead models a focused and coherent study of high priority topics within each content area. The Framework focuses on functions and algebra in math, on U.S. history (with extensions to civics, economics and geography) in SS, and on matter and energy in science. The entire framework is based on 6 cross-content core teaching principles that inform the CUNY Adult Literacy PD team’s work.

Building off the Framework

Our hope is that teachers will select relevant aspects of the Curriculum Framework and make them their own. Teaching is a creative act and each teacher will make different decisions about what and how to teach, and which instructional resources best suit their needs.

We teachers often work in our individual classrooms in isolation within our own four walls. We can feel disconnected from other educators doing similar work in the classroom next door, in a program in the same city or in another part of the state. The CUNY HSE Framework can serve as an instructional resource in common, and it is our hope that teachers across the state will build and improve upon the Framework and then share what they have created. Whether via the web or face-to-face meetings about instructional practice, there are now more ways than ever to collaborate and learn from each other. We hope this Framework can serve as an impetus for teachers across the state to build networks and partnerships through common vocabulary and teaching experiences, helping us to grow together as a field.

What are other people saying about the Framework?

Read the LINCS review of the CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework. LINCS is the national leadership initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) whose mission is to expand evidence-based practice in the field of adult education.

“The CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework is one of the first adult education classroom support documents that I would recommend to be used as a LINCS course.  The resource is innovative and very up-to-date with classroom and teaching techniques (adaptations, enhancements, resources and research) that are practical because the information given can be used in a diverse range of instructional environments.”

  • Math“This is one of the most powerful resources in the field… complete with explanations on design instruction, areas of focus, and lessons to begin applying in any adult education classroom… it is a manual that can be used to help educators and programs design effective math instruction…” Here’s the full LINCS review of the math section
  • Science“This is a very well written science curriculum developed for adult education instructors without science background. The lessons are clear, appropriate, and interesting. Adult education instructors interested in teaching science could pick this up and start planning very easily.”  Here’s the full LINCS review of the science section
  • Classroom Supports and Career Pathway Connections“… provides concrete ideas for modifying English Language Arts, Social Studies and Mathematics instruction for lower-skilled students, with icebreakers, substantive lesson plans, teaching resources, and guidelines for career exploration. It is a clear and highly practical teaching guide that specifically addresses the needs of low-skilled youth.” Here’s the full LINCS review of the classroom support section.

This project was made possible through WIA Incentive Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Labor, with support from the New York State Department of Labor, Division of Employment and Workforce Solutions, in collaboration with the New York State Education Department, Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services.

HSE Curriculum Framework cover


Download Introduction Section

Welcoming Teachers to the CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework

SECTION 2 – Social Studies: Integrating Reading & Writing

Download Social Studies Section

SECTION 3 – Science: Matter & Energy

Download Science Section

SECTION 4 – Math: Problem-Solving in Functions & Algebra

Download Math Section

SECTION 5 – Classroom Supports and Career Pathway Connections

Download Classroom Supports and Career Pathway Connections Section

SECTION 6 – Professional Development Recommendations

Download PD Section


We’ve been expanding the framework with more problems and activities. – CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework: Supplemental Materials 

Instructional Videos – The Framework in Action