CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework for Social Studies, Science and Math

The CUNY HSE Curriculum 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. The complete framework is available for free download. We invite you to share your experiences using it with your students.

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. It is a guide for planning your instruction – including topic recommendations, model lessons, guiding questions, readings, and problems. 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.


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.

Update: We’ve been expanding the framework with more problems and activities that fit with each of the units. Check them out at CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework: Supplemental Materials 

Download the CUNY HSE Framework

The Social Studies section 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, six model lesson plans and additional resources.

The science section provides an introduction to matter and basic chemistry with extensions to science/math connections.  This section includes a curriculum map with 23 topic descriptions and key questions, and three complete inquiry-based model lesson plans.

If you teach science in adult literacy/HSE, you may interested in the Science Teacher Forum for the CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework. We share teaching ideas and lessons for teaching science:

The math section 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.

This 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.

This section has suggested PD activities for teachers to discuss best practices and analyze their classroom instruction in the context of the framework.

  • Teaching Activities from the Framework: Instructional Videos

Model lessons in action in an HSE class taught by the CUNY Adult Literacy PD team

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. 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, social media or face-to-face meetings about instructional practice, there are now more ways than ever to collaborate and learn from each other, helping us to grow together as a field.

Are you using the framework in your classes? If so, please use the comment section below to share your experiences, adaptations, questions and suggestions.

What are other people saying about the CUNY 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.


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About Mark Trushkowsky

Mark enjoys doing math problems that take weeks, family sing-a-longs and reading late into the night. At 16, he believed the next revolution would be waged through poetry. Now he believes it is adult basic education. But he still likes poetry. Mark has worked in adult literacy and HSE since 2001. He is a founding member of the NYC Community of Adult Math Instructors (CAMI). He was born and raised in Brooklyn where he lives happily ever after with his partner Sarah and their daughter Liv. Follow me on Twitter (@mtrushkowsky)

One thought on “CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework for Social Studies, Science and Math

  1. The Curriculum Framework has very much served as a model of what our classrooms should look like, especially the Math. The curriculum highlights the need for better questioning techniques in our Adult Ed classrooms and provides a guideline for starting points to scaffold lessons. The BEST part about the curriculum is telling a teacher about a lesson on algebraic functions that is so approachable. Our students love the topics and our teachers love the resource. I look forward to seeing this wonderful resource developed further. Great work!

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