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Draft Revised Science and Technology/Engineering Standards - For Initial Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
May 8, 2015


At the meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on May 19, 2015, I will ask the Board to vote to release the draft revised Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) Standards for public comment. The draft revised standards are enclosed. I anticipate asking the Board to adopt the final version of the STE Curriculum Framework in the fall of the 2015-16 school year, and at that time, will propose a timeline for implementation.


State law directs the Board to adopt and periodically update curriculum frameworks in the various academic disciplines. The Board originally adopted and published the Science and Technology Framework in 1996. The current framework, available at, reflects a full revision in 2001 and a "minor revision" of the high school standards in 2006. While the Science and Technology/Engineering Framework materials were also updated in the 2001 and 2006 revisions, the full set of STE standards has not been updated in 15 years.

The Department began the current revision process in 2009 by convening 44 members on the STE Review Panel. In 2011, Massachusetts joined the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) development as one of 26 lead states, and, as part of this process, an NGSS Advisory Group, composed of an additional 23 representatives from Massachusetts, was convened. All 67 representatives of both groups have been active in developing the draft revised STE standards for Massachusetts, and numerous other educators have provided input during NGSS public reviews and over the past 16 months.

In October 2013, I informed the Board of our plan to make the draft revised STE standards available to the field and the public for an extended period of review during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. We took this step in light of the fact that districts have been engaged in several major initiatives. Moving more slowly towards adoption of the new STE standards afforded educators the opportunity to work on curriculum and provide input on the draft revised standards. The extended timeline also gave districts more opportunity to move other initiatives forward before Board approval of new STE standards. The draft revised standards that I am presenting for your consideration on May 19 incorporate edits based on input provided during the past 16 months.

Goals in Revising the Standards

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education undertook this revision to carry out our obligation to periodically update standards in each discipline and to:

  • Ensure that state STE standards support students' post-secondary success. Most Massachusetts jobs and post-secondary opportunities require scientific and technical proficiency. Additionally, developing a strong pipeline of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)-ready students relies on high-quality PreK-12 science and technology/engineering programs built on rigorous learning outcomes.
  • Align the standards with increased emphasis on analytical thinking skills in college and the workplace. Introductory science courses at the college level put a greater emphasis on scientific practices. College Board Advanced Placement (AP) courses, designed to reflect introductory college science, have already transitioned to the model that the draft revised standards embody. Repeated surveys of businesses highlight their increasing emphasis on critical thinking skills that our current STE standards do not include.
  • Support the implementation of other initiatives. The draft revised STE standards reinforce mathematics and literacy standards, particularly given a strong alignment of practices (skills) across all three disciplines, and contribute to a college and career perspective.

Tailoring Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for Massachusetts

Massachusetts was a lead state in the development of the NGSS, released in April 2013. The NGSS reflect a number of key advancements from our current STE standards, consistent with the recommendations and goals of our own revision process. In particular, the NGSS:

  • integrate concepts and practices;
  • present grade-by-grade standards for elementary school;
  • reflect coherent progressions of learning across the years;
  • focus on deeper conceptual understanding and application; and
  • relate science standards to English language arts and mathematics.

While these are significant, public input on NGSS from Massachusetts educators and our standing committees highlighted several features that we are incorporating into our draft revised Massachusetts standards. In comparison to NGSS, the Massachusetts draft revised STE standards:

  • include fewer dimensions, to make the standards simpler and easier to interpret;
  • are written to balance broad concepts with specific expectations, to engender common interpretation;
  • are presented as integrated grade-by-grade PreK through Grade 8;
  • expand technology/engineering to a full discipline in middle and high school;
  • define college and career readiness; and
  • maintain the state's current approach to high school course options.

While the draft Massachusetts curriculum framework differs from NGSS in these important respects, the draft revised STE standards keep as much in common with NGSS as possible, to provide districts and schools teachers and students access to the rich array of resources that will accompany the implementation of NGSS across states.

Key Features of the Draft Revised Standards

To prepare students for success in college, careers, and adult life, the Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) standards are intended to drive coherent, rigorous instruction that emphasizes student mastery of both disciplinary core ideas and application of science and engineering practices. These standards embody several key features that aim to support this goal, including a number of features that are also embedded in the Massachusetts Mathematics and English Language Arts Standards:

  1. Focus on deep understanding and application of concepts.
    The standards are focused on a small set of disciplinary core ideas that build across grades and lead to deep understanding and application of concepts. The standards are written to articulate the broad concepts and key components that specify expected learning. In particular, the disciplinary core ideas emphasize the principles students need to analyze and explain natural phenomena and designed systems that they experience in the world.

  2. Integration of disciplinary core ideas and practices reflects the interconnected nature of science and engineering.
    The standards integrate disciplinary core ideas (concepts) with scientific and engineering practices (skills). The integration of disciplinary core ideas and practices reflects how science and engineering is applied and practiced every day, is shown to enhance student learning of both, and results in rigorous learning expectations aligned with similar expectations in mathematics and English Language Arts standards.

  3. Preparation for post-secondary success in college and careers.
    The standards include science and engineering practices necessary to engage in scientific and technical reasoning, a key aspect of college and career readiness. The standards articulate key knowledge and skills students need to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing science, engineering or technical courses in college or university; certificate or workplace training programs requiring an equivalent level of science; or comparable entry-level science or technical courses, as well as jobs and post-secondary opportunities that require scientific and technical proficiency to earn a living wage.

  4. Science and technology/engineering core ideas and practices progress coherently from Pre-K to High School.
    The standards emphasize a focused and coherent progression of concepts and skills from grade band to grade band, allowing for a dynamic process of knowledge and skill building throughout a student's scientific education. The progression gives students the opportunity to learn more sophisticated material and re-conceptualize their understanding of how the natural and designed worlds work, leading to the scientific and technical understanding and reasoning skills needed for post-secondary success.

  5. Each discipline is included in grade-level standards Pre-K to Grade 8.
    To achieve consistency across schools and districts and to facilitate collaborative work, resource sharing, and effective education for transient populations, the Pre-K to grade 8 standards are presented by grade level rather than grade spans. All four disciplines, including earth and space science, life science, physical science, and technology/engineering, are included in each grade to encourage integration in curriculum.

  6. The STE Standards are coordinated with the Commonwealth's English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards.
    The STE standards require the use and application of key English Language Arts and mathematics concepts and skills needed to support science and technology/engineering learning. The three sets of standards overlap in meaningful and substantive ways, particularly in regards to practices (skills) that are common across all three, and offer an opportunity for all students to better apply and learn science and technology/engineering.

Next Steps

We plan to gather public input through July 2015, and then make any necessary edits to the draft revised standards over the summer. I will bring the final revised STE standards to the Board for an adoption vote in the fall. At that time, we will also have the full STE Curriculum Framework document for your review and I will present an implementation plan that includes a timeline for transitioning the STE MCAS tests.

Senior Associate Commissioner Brooke Clenchy, Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Landman, and other members of the Department who have been engaged in this work will be at the Board meeting to answer your questions.


Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Draft Revised Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Standards
Motion to Solicit Public Comment

Last Updated: May 12, 2015
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