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Center for Instructional Support

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) Standards
Frequently Asked Questions

As of 2/24/2021

Implementing the 2016 STE Standards

  1. What resources are available to support districts to implement the 2016 STE standards?

    A: Each district is or will be developing its own plan for transitioning to the 2016 STE standards that accounts for local conditions, initiatives, and resources. The Curriculum Framework provides guidance about qualities of strong programs, as outlined in the Vision and Guiding Principles. For example, it is encouraged that STE curriculum and instruction emphasize relevance, rigor, coherence, and engagement of students in STE learning. The Department will continue to add resources related to the implementation of curriculum and instruction aligned to the 2016 STE Standards on the STE home page

  2. How much time for science and technology/engineering instruction is suggested for each grade level?

    A: The Department does not provide guidance on time for any particular subject, including STE. The development of the revised STE standards did make some assumptions about how much time is available for STE, in part based on information provided through a district survey at the start of the standards development process in 2009. The basic assumptions for the purpose of standards development were:

    • Grades K–2: approximately 25 minutes/day (~2 hours/week)
    • Grades 3–5: approximately 35 minutes/day (~3 hours/week)
    • Grades 6–8: approximately 55 minutes/day (~4.5 hours/week)
    • Grades 9–10: approximately 60 minutes/day (~5 hours/week)

    Schools may have more or less time depending on local factors that determine curriculum programming within a specific context. STE instruction may be a dedicated time in the school schedule or may be integrated with instruction of other subjects. The goal is for all students to have science and technology/engineering instruction on a regular basis every year.

  3. Can districts choose to implement middle school standards in a discipline-specific model instead of the integrated model as presented in the 2016 STE standards?

    A: While it is recommended that middle school programs align to the 2016 STE standards as presented, districts can choose to implement the middle school standards in a discipline-specific model if they prefer. The grade 8 MCAS will remain as a grade-span assessment so there will be no state mechanism to evaluate whether standards are taught in a particular grade. A school or district can rearrange the standards among the three grades if that better fits their middle school model, local programming, curricula, or resources. If this is done, however, both the sequencing of standards and the grade-level appropriateness of standards should be considered. For example, the grade 8 standards are where students are first introduced to atoms and molecules (e.g., 8.MS-PS1-1, 8.MS-PS1-5), and any standard that requires that perspective is also presented at 8th grade (e.g., 8,MS-LS1-7, ). If those standards are moved to different grade levels, based on discipline-by-grade model for example (e.g., life science is taught at grade 6 so the LS1-7 standard is moved to grade 6), there could be a situation where the expectations for grade 6 requires a molecular perspective but the standards about atoms and molecules remain at grade 8. Additionally, the grade 8 standards focus on mechanisms that drive a number of natural phenomena, the cause and effect relationships that explain why certain phenomena behave as they do. These are often not directly observable and require a level of abstraction or indirect evidence that a grade 8 student is more likely to productively grapple with than a grade 6 student.

  4. Should the standards be taught in the order they are presented in? For example, in grade 6, should teachers begin with Earth Science and end with Physical Science?

    A: The order in which standards are listed does not imply or define an intended instructional sequence. Districts can choose to arrange their scope and sequence within any grade level as they see fit. The strand maps and standards navigator can be helpful tools to see where there may be interdependencies that should be accounted for or how concepts progress over time.

  5. How can I view the progression of concepts for a particular discipline across grades?

    A: The Department has created strand maps that show the conceptual relationship between standards within and across grades or grade spans that allow for targeted pre-assessment, contextualization, and/or identification of boundaries for any particular standard that is being taught. Strand maps can be an efficient way to see how concepts progress over time and how curriculum and instruction can productively relate standards to support student learning. Schools and districts have found strand maps to be particularly useful in vertical team meetings, curriculum mapping workshops, and interdisciplinary meetings. Individual teachers can use them to identify concepts that should be the focus of pre-assessment, to convey to students how the standard they are learning will contribute to future learning, and to cluster standards into effective units of study. The maps are available at Science & Technology/Engineering Strand Maps in a one-page PDF document (useful for viewing electronically — zoom in several hundred percent); a multi-page PDF document (useful for printing — then tape them together or take to a print shop to have printed on poster paper); and in the original CMAPTools format (useful for manipulating or adjusting the maps — any map can be printed from within the application).

  6. How are the MCAS tests aligned to the 2016 STE standards?

    A: General information and resources and can be found on the STE MCAS webpage.

  7. Where can print copies of the 2016 STE Curriculum Framework be ordered?

    A: The 2016 STE Framework can be downloaded from the STE webpage. Additional copies can be obtained (for cost) at the State Bookstore.

Features of the 2016 STE Standards

  1. What broad features of the 2016 STE standards are new compared to the 2001/2006 standards?

    A: The 2016 STE standards maintain much of the content of the 2001/2006 standards with updates to reflect changes identified by the field, changes to content of science and engineering over the past 15 years, and the addition of inquiry and design skills students need to successfully engage in this discipline in PreK–12 classrooms, civic life, and post-secondary opportunities. The 2016 STE standards strengthen the often-lauded science standards Massachusetts has relied on since 2001.

    The 2016 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. In particular, the 2016 STE standards include:

    • A focus on conceptual understanding and application of concepts;
    • Integration of disciplinary core ideas and practices to reflect the discipline of science and technology/engineering;
    • Coherent progressions of STE core ideas and practices from PreK to High School; and
    • Inclusion of each discipline in grade-level standards PreK to grade 8

    For information about specific changes to the standards, please see the crosswalk documents found on the STE webpage.

  2. Why is each discipline (ESS, LS, PS, and TE) included in each grade for PreK through grade 8?

    A: An integrated approach for PreK-8 reflects the multidisciplinary nature of science and technology/engineering and research on science learning, curriculum, and instruction. An integrated model reflects:

    • That science is complex and multidisciplinary;
    • Research on learning in science which shows expert knowledge develops through interdisciplinary connections and not through isolated concepts or practices; and
    • Effective research-based practices for curriculum and instruction in science and engineering.

    For more details, see Appendix V: The Case for an Integrated, Grade-by-Grade Approach for Pre-K–8 in the 2016 STE Curriculum Framework

Components of the Standards

  1. Why are there more standards for PreK than for Kindergarten?

    A: PreK is typically two years, so the PreK standards are intended to be taught over two years rather than one year.

  2. Do the Clarification Statements or State Assessment Boundaries included in the 2016 STE standards limit what educators can or should include in curriculum or instruction?

    A: Many standards include Clarification Statements, which supply examples or additional clarification to the standards, and State Assessment Boundary statements that are meant to specify limits to state assessment. It is important to note that these are not intended to limit or constrain curriculum or classroom instruction. Educators are welcome to teach and assess additional concepts, practices, and vocabulary that are not included in the standards. These features are meant to clarify the expectations for student performance from the state perspective. Additionally, it is important to note that the order in which standards are listed does not imply or define an intended instructional sequence.

  3. How does the coding or labeling of the standards work?

    A: The system for labeling the 2016 STE standards is based on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) but Massachusetts has adapted NGSS standards in a number of ways. Example labels include 5-LS1-1, 7.MS-ESS2-2, and HS-PS2-7(MA). The first component of each label indicates the grade (PreK to grade 8) and/or span (middle or high school: MS or HS). The next component specifies the discipline and core idea (ESS, LS, PS, ETS). The number at the end of each label indicates the particular standard within the related set. Finally, the use of an asterisk "*" at the end of some standards designates those standards that include an engineering design practice and, as such, are an application of science to engineering. For standards that are not aligned to NGSS and are additional standards for Massachusetts, an "(MA)" has been added to the label. It is also important to note that the order in which standards are listed does not imply or define an intended instructional sequence.

  4. What does an asterisk "*" at the end of a standard mean?

    A: The use of an asterisk "*" at the end of some standards designates those standards that include an engineering design practice and as such are an application of science to engineering. (See Question 12) This is consistent with the labeling of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

  5. Why are some of the standards not in sequence or why is there occasionally a set of standards that skip a number?

    A: The system for labeling the 2016 STE standards is based on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Since Massachusetts has adapted NGSS there are some standards that have been excluded which results in a missing number. Additionally, some standards in NGSS were numbered for a grade span (elementary ETS, and middle and high school standards) but Massachusetts has distributed those to particular grades. This results in sets of standards for a particular core idea in a particular grade that are not necessarily sequential. This reinforces the point that the order in which standards are listed does not imply or define an intended instructional sequence.

Differences in Massachusetts STE Standards from Next Generation Science Standards

  1. Why are the 2016 STE standards based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?

    A: Using the NGSS as a basis for the 2016 STE standards is meant to allow Massachusetts' educators access to any curriculum and instruction resources developed nationally, even though the Massachusetts standards are an adaptation of NGSS. Many standards in the 2016 STE standards are consistent with the disciplinary core ideas and science and engineering practices included in NGSS, allowing for the use of units and lessons written anywhere in the nation to be used by Massachusetts educators. Some 2016 STE standards are a significant deviation or addition beyond NGSS so those will be areas where Massachusetts educators are unlikely to find nationally developed resources. It is worth noting that educators always have a responsibility to ensure that any resource obtained from external sources is aligned to MA standards. Consistency with NGSS does occasionally result in odd coding of standards due to some NGSS standards not being included in the Massachusetts' standards, or Massachusetts adding some standards beyond NGSS. This results in codes that occasionally appear to not be in sequence or skip a number (see Question 14).

  2. How are the 2016 STE standards different from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?

    A: The 2016 STE standards and the NGSS have significant common foundations:

    • Coherent progressions of disciplinary core ideas, as well as science and engineering practices
    • Integration of core ideas and practices in standards
    • Focus on conceptual understanding and application to natural and designed systems
    • Grade-by-grade standards
    • Inclusion of engineering
    • Explicit links to mathematics and ELA standards

    To allow educators and districts to access benefits of commonality across states, including the use of NGSS-aligned resources created elsewhere, the Massachusetts adaptation reflects NGSS as much as possible. Yet public input from across the Commonwealth during the development of NGSS and the MA 2016 STE standards identified several aspects that needed some adaptation for Massachusetts. This table summarizes several key differences:

    MA AdaptationNGSS
    Standards include only two dimensions: disciplinary core ideas and practices. The crosscutting concepts are included in the appendix of the frameworks.Standards include three dimensions: disciplinary core ideas, practices, and crosscutting concepts
    PreK STE standards includedNo PreK STE standards included
    Middle school presented grade-by-gradeMiddle school presented as grade span
    Technology/Engineering as a disciplineEngineering design as occasional application of science
    Standards can stand on their own without need to reference foundation boxesStandards require reference to the foundation boxes to identify full range of expected learning
    Balances broad concepts with specificity to inform more consistent interpretationStandards are broadly written, leading to inconsistent interpretation
    Defines college and career readiness for STE; maintains current Massachusetts model with high school course optionsNo definition for college and career readiness; all high school courses expected

Last Updated: February 24, 2021

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