Next Generation Science Standards in Massachusetts

Instructor: Bill Sands
Education officials in Massachusetts encourage instructors to follow the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS. Read on to learn more about science instruction in the state.

Science Standards in Massachusetts

As many other states have done, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Kansas State Department of Education has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS. The framework for the NGSS stresses the teaching of Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), a series of essential scientific concepts that have been identified as particularly crucial to a well-rounded education.

Massachusetts NGSS Guiding Principles

Massachusetts education policy grants local districts a large degree of autonomy. The state does provide guidance and offer recommendations, but outside of state assessments and standards, the state has few mandates and policies that schools are required to follow. The state provides the following guiding principles to help schools develop standards:

  • Relevance to real-world contexts
  • Reference to existing knowledge
  • Experimentation and problem solving
  • Collaboration and communication
  • Curriculum access and student expectations
  • Integration of math and literacy
  • Assessing student learning regularly
  • Progressive and engaging curriculum
  • Planning and implementation support

Pre-K and Kindergarten Standards

DCI instruction follows a natural progression, as younger students begin by learning basic concepts and move on to more advanced subjects as they continue into middle and high school. The following table outlines science topics that meet the Massachusetts standards at the Pre-K and kindergarten levels.

Earth and Space SciencesThe universe; Earth's systems; Earth and human activity
Life ScienceMolecular structures and processes; Ecosystems and energy; Biological trait variations
Physical SciencesMatter; Motion and stability of forces; Waves; Energy

Elementary Grade Standards

Students in elementary school learn about Earth and space sciences, life science and physical science as well as technology and engineering sciences. For the schools that choose to implement this initiative, MassCore's intensive program is designed to prepare students to meet college and professional requirements. Classes in elementary and middle school are organized by grade bands, with groups including 1st grade, 2nd grade, and grades 3 to 5.

Earth and Space SciencesThe universe (1, 2, 4, 5); Earth's systems (2-5); Human activity (3-5)
Life Science Molecular structures and processes (1, 3, 4, 5); Heredity and trait variation (1, 3, 5); Ecosystems and energy (2, 3, 5); Biological evolution (2, 3)
Physical ScienceWaves (1, 4); Matter (2, 5; Energy (2, 4); Motion and stability of forces (3, 5); Technological systems (5)
Technology and EngineeringEngineering design (1-4)

Students should be able to use basic data collection skills to learn about the world around them, with courses covering weather patterns, animal behavior and environments, plant life cycles, force and gravity, landforms, erosion and phase changes. To help students understand the concepts taught using these standards, they can use this Science for Kids course that provides fun and engaging lessons that can clarify classroom instruction, help with homework or aid in test prep.

Middle Grade Standards

After introducing fundamental ideas in elementary school, science instruction in middle school moves towards more theoretical topics. Using their understanding of the physical sciences, students begin to explore life and space sciences. Grade bands at this level cover grades 6 through 8.

Earth and Space SciencesThe universe (6,8); Earth's systems (6,7,8); Human activity (7,8)
Life Science Molecular structures and processes (6,7,9); Heredity and trait variation (8); Ecosystems and energy (7); Biological evolution (6,8)
Physical ScienceWaves (6); Matter (6,8); Energy (7); Motion and stability of forces (6,7,8)
Technology and EngineeringEngineering design (6,7); Materials and manufacturing (6,8); Technological systems (7)

Topics taught at this level include heredity, biological evolution, chemical reactions, electromagnetic radiation, and common ancestry. Students can get a better handle on the concepts taught in middle school by taking these courses in Middle School Life Science, Physical Science for Middle School and Middle School Earth Science.

High School Standards

High school courses are assigned based on content. Subject matter includes chemistry, physics, engineering, earth & space science, and biology. Students will begin to explore more advanced topics and applications of science concepts.

Earth and Space SciencesThe universe; Earth's systems; Human and Earth activity
Biology Molecular structures and processes; Heredity and trait variation; Ecosystems and energy; Biological evolution
Chemistry Matter; Energy; Motion and stability of forces
Physics Matter; Motion and stability of forces; Energy; Waves
Technology and EngineeringEngineering design; Materials and manufacturing; Technological systems; Power technologies and energy

High school students study such common topics as hydraulic and pneumatic systems, thermal conditions, wave behavior and interactions, magnetic and electric fields, energy conservation, fission and fusion, kinetic molecular theory, chemical reactions, Darwin's theories, sustainability and cycles of matter. Students can prepare and hone skills by taking these courses in biology, chemistry, and physical science

Massachusetts Science Competency Testing

Competence will be tested in state-proctored exams known as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). Students will be tested in grades 5, 8, and 12, with successful completion of these exams being a requirement for high school graduation.

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