NGSS Standards: Making the Shift to Performance Expectations

Standards for education are defined by the Common Core as “learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level”. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) take this definition to a new level by describing targets. These targets are performance expectations for all students. The shift is hardly subtle: It is huge!

The NGSS describe ambitious targets for student learning in science that are based on the goals described in the Framework. These targets are framed as performance expectations that describe how students will use their knowledge as they engage in scientific and engineering practices.

~Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (p. 10)

Comparing and Contrasting Definitions

A goal is something you set. You hope that you reach that goal, but there are many reasons you may not. On the other hand, an expectation is non-negotiable. One way or another, an expectation will be happening!

Comparing and Contrasting Verbs

Since I teach third grade in North Carolina, I looked at our North Carolina Essential Science Standards for Physical Science:

The verbs are understand, infer, compare, and explain.

The verbs are understand, recognize, compare, and summarize.

The verbs are recognize, recognize, and recognize.

Here are the NGSS Performance Expectations for Physical Science in Third Grade:

The verbs are plan and conduct, make, provide, ask, determine, apply, and define.

Referring to this article on the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, verbs from NCESS and NGSS fall in the following knowledge levels:

Verbs from the NCESS

  • recognize — remember
  • understand — understand
  • infer–understand
  • compare — understand
  • explain — understand
  • summarize — understand

Verbs from the NGSS

  • plan — create (or apply)
  • conduct — analyze?
  • make — create
  • provide — apply
  • ask — analyze?
  • determine — apply
  • apply — apply
  • define — remember

The Bloom’s Taxonomy image above was downloaded here under a Creative Commons attribution license. Read more about the levels of mastering material here.

In both sets of standards, students are expected to “master” the material at the remember and/or understand level. However, the NGSS Performance Expectations are asking students to demonstrate “mastery” at higher thinking levels. Additionally, the tasks themselves have more than one part.

My Questions

  1. Where is the time to acquire that knowledge going to come from?

Initial Thoughts

More Questions

  1. If so, where is the evidence? If not, what can be put in place to help all students acquire the basic knowledge so they can use this knowledge at higher levels of mastery in third grade?


*Next Generation Science Standards is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this post, and do not endorse it. Visit the official NGSS website at

Originally published at on January 12, 2019.

3rd Grade Teacher of Future World Leaders, #NCStateCED MAT alum