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Center for Instructional Support

Reviewing the Massachusetts Academic Learning Standards

Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt the 2018 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework on June 26, 2018.

English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics

The 2017 curriculum frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and for Mathematics were published in their final form on June 29. The frameworks are designed to be used easily on computer screens; for pricing of printed copies, please contact the state bookstore. Please note that these documents have not changed substantively since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted them in March. Standards have been proofread for typographical errors, guidance material has been copyedited for clarity and consistency, and all content has been reformatted. Each framework is accompanied by a document highlighting the more substantive differences between the 2011 standards and the 2017 ones. Additional resources supporting implementation of the 2017 frameworks will be released throughout the 2017-2018 academic year.

Standards Review Process

The Department reviews each set of academic standards periodically, updating and upgrading them in response to lessons learned in implementation, emerging research in education and the content areas, and feedback from the higher education and business communities. Every review process includes a wide variety of stakeholders from across the Commonwealth: teachers and instructional coaches, school and district administrators, instructors at public and private colleges, employers and community leaders, and other educational and content-area experts.

Stakeholder input is captured most formally through the convening of a review panel, though feedback from educators, parents, and others is also solicited through online surveys and public comment opportunities. The names and professional affiliations of review panel members are published online as well as in the Frameworks themselves. The Department works to ensure that each panel includes representatives from all grade spans; from urban, suburban, and rural districts; and from traditional, charter, vocational, and other types of schools.

Most review processes take between 1.5 and 3 years and consider all aspects and assumptions of the standards under review. The three phases described at right are typical of a standards review process.

PhaseActionsTypical Time Frame
  • Review panel is convened
  • All interested stakeholders provide feedback on current standards through a survey
  • Panel analyzes survey data and current research and best practices in the field in order to make recommendations for editing standards
6 months
  • Department works with panel to make agreed-upon edits to standards
  • Department presents new draft standards to BESE, which votes on releasing them for public comment
6 months
  • Draft standards become available for public comment
  • Public comment is solicited
  • Panel and DESE make additional edits to standards in response to public comment
  • Standards are adopted by BESE vote
4-6 months

What are Academic Learning Standards?

  1. Standards state what students should know and be able to do by the end of particular grades or courses.

  2. Standards are clear, specific, and measureable.

  3. Standards identify desired results rather than means. They leave room for educators and curriculum developers to determine how students will develop the skills and gain the knowledge expected.

  4. Standards are ambitious, providing a floor but not a ceiling for student learning.

  5. Standards progress logically and smoothly from grade to grade.

  6. Standards are coherent both within each subject area and across subject areas.

Massachusetts currently has learning standards and frameworks in seven areas: the arts, comprehensive health, English language arts & literacy, foreign languages, history & social science, mathematics, and science & technology/engineering. There are also curriculum standards for the 44 career and vocational technical education programs. All current standards are online.

It is important to remember that state learning standards are not classroom curriculum—the lesson plans, books and materials, and other resources educators use to teach students. Massachusetts does not mandate curricula or textbooks; how and what exactly educators teach is determined at the local level.

What is the history of learning standards in Massachusetts?

What is a Standards-Based System?

Where can I find more information about past standards review processes?

Last Updated: June 29, 2018
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