What Are the NGSS Performance Expectations?

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) performance expectations detail what students should learn in their science classes throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Read on to explore these expectations, what they comprise, and how they are being implemented across the country.

Overview of the NGSS Performance Expectations

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) performance expectations outline the science skills and knowledge students should be able to demonstrate at each grade level, from kindergarten through high school. Expectations increase in complexity at each grade level, but all focus on the core NGSS disciplines and incorporate both science and engineering practices, along with crosscutting concepts.

NGSS Performance Expectations Groupings by Grade

The NGSS performance expectations are grouped differently for different grade ranges and disciplinary areas. There are specific expectations for each grade from kindergarten through grade 5; for grades 6 through 12, performance expectations are grouped into middle school and high school categories. The exception is the disciplinary area of engineering design, for which performance expectations are arranged in four grade ranges: K-2, 3-5, middle school and high school.

Content of Performance Expectations

NGSS performance expectations are grouped into four disciplinary areas. Within each disciplinary area, students must not only gain knowledge of the subject, but also demonstrate that knowledge by using the eight science and engineering practices, and the seven crosscutting concepts defined by the NGSS. So, for each grade or grade range, the performance expectations are based upon the three central components of the NGSS:

Disciplinary AreasCrosscutting ConceptsScience and Engineering Practices
Physical Sciences

Earth and Space Sciences

Life Sciences

Engineering Design
*Stability and Change
*Cause and Effect
*Structure and Function
*Scale, Proportion and Quantity
*Energy and Matter
*Systems and System Models
*Asking Questions/Defining Problems
*Acquiring, Analyzing and Communicating Information
*Creating and Using Models
*Developing Explanations and Solutions
*Interpreting Data
*Conducting Investigations
*Using Evidence-Based Arguments
*Thinking Mathematically and Computationally

Implementation of the Performance Expectations

The Next Generation Science Standards and its performance expectations outline what students should learn in science classes, but do not provide a specific curriculum. Rather, each state or school district that adopts NGSS uses these expectations to guide their development and implementation of appropriate curriculum. As of early 2016, eighteen states and the District of Columbia had adopted NGSS. Each state is developing its own implementation plan and, in some states, that may mean four or more years before students are expected to meet the NGSS performance expectations.

Support for Educators

If you are an educator in a state or district that has adopted NGSS, you may explore the performance expectations on the NGSS website ( Because some states are altering the standards and structure of the performance expectations, you may also want to check with your state's department of education.

To begin brushing up on the core disciplines, crosscutting concepts and engineering practices that make up the performance expectations of the NGSS, offers a variety of courses that address these subjects at different grade levels. Because these courses are available entirely online, they are a convenient resource to help you develop ideas for lessons and class discussions that support the NGSS performance expectations. These courses include:

Grade Level Courses
Elementary School Science for Kids
Middle SchoolPhysical Science: Middle School, Earth Science: Middle School, Life Science Middle School
High School High School Physical Science, Earth Science, High School Biology

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