In this article we describe the processes and outcomes of the development of the New Zealand Curriculum Exemplars for Students with Special Education Needs. The project focused on teachers working with students described as working long term at Level 1 in the New Zealand Curriculum. Earlier research had shown that teachers were often puzzled about how to include some students with special education needs in their planning, teaching and assessment. The development of the Exemplars provides an example of a framework that supports educators and families to work collaboratively and the positive outcomes that are possible when working in this way. We pay particular attention to new understandings about curriculum, pedagogy and assessment that emerged as together we learned to use narrative assessment.