Aligning the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with IB curricula

Are you an IB teacher in the US and grappling with how to align the requirements of both the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with your IB programme? A new resource for IB teachers has been produced by the IB, in collaboration with science educators, to help with implementation.

Dr Sudha Sunder, Associate Consultant at KDSL Global and co-author of the resource for IB educators, explains that, essentially, the goals of the IB programmes and the NGSS are complementary. However, the NGSS, guided by the conceptual framework of the National Research council (NRC), have set new priorities for science education in IB World Schools in the United States, that are engaged in the dual implementation of IB programmes and the NGSS. Educators in these schools are being called upon to ensure that their students are prepared to demonstrate proficiency in the NGSS performance indicators, while achieving the goals of IB programmes.

Please visit NGSS for information on the two-step process to develop the standards.

Resource for IB teachers

Once the standards were released in the US, the organization Achieve, who developed NGSS, began a relationship with the IB to create a comparison study as a resource for IB teachers. The study’s objective is to guide IB teachers and schools in implementing the NGSS within an IB World School. The study highlights the opportunities and the challenges associated with implementing NGSS in schools offering IB programmes.

While the DP and CP curricula frameworks and the NGSS both have performance expectations, the teachers who are facilitating the transition to their dual implementation will benefit from seeing the NGSS as moving schools one step closer (and a much-needed step) towards realizing the IB’s vision through measurable outcomes.

By explaining the "Structure of Knowledge" (Erickson, 2012), the report helps unpack the NGSS in IB classrooms (from the primary years through to the Diploma Programme) at the factual and conceptual levels, particularly in being able to incorporate the seven crosscutting concepts as articulated by the NGSS. The report enables teachers to see how the NGSS offers a consistent framework that complements science learning across the IB continuum. The NGSS K-12 student performance expectations enable classroom teachers to gauge what students “know, understand and do” (Erickson, 2012) in science learning in the Primary Years, Middle Years, Diploma, and Career-related Programmes.

In terms of curriculum and instruction, both the IB programmes and the NGSS promote principles of “backwards by design” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2004). So even though a particular section of the study report may be of more relevance and significance to teachers in the DP and CP, the essence of the relationship (between the IB and the NGSS) and how this affects the PYP and the MYP will not only be valuable for teachers across the continuum, but also for IB educators to derive a holistic understanding and approach to curriculum and instruction while engaged in the dual implementation.

Since the IB operates in a wider international context, having to meet the needs of multiple national systems, building a relationship study report between the IB and the NGSS cannot be completed through a comparative analysis because the end goals of the IB and the NGSS are different as are the products themselves. The purpose of this relationship study is therefore not to engage in a 'match making' exercise between the IB philosophy and the NGSS.

Implementing the NGSS with intellectual rigour and consistency within an IB framework calls for a “systems thinking” (Fullan, 2005) approach to curriculum design principles, classroom practices and assessment through the effective integration of science, technology, mathematics, English language arts and the social sciences. For this reason the target audience for this report is not only science teachers.

IB teachers can now access the study on the digital toolkit to support them in implementation of both NGSS and their IB programme.


Fullan, M. 2005 Leadership and sustainability: systems thinkers in action. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.

Wiggins, G and McTighe, J. 2004. Understanding by Design. ASCD.

Erickson, HL. 2012. Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.