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The State Board of Education has the authority to adopt academic standards for each subject area in grades K-12.

The state board adopted Tennessee Academic Standards for Science in October 2016, and they will be implemented in classrooms in the 2018-19 school year. The revised science standards were developed utilizing recommendations found in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.

Standards Support Documents

The TN Science Standards Implementation Guide can be used to facilitate meetings and investigations which connect the framework to the 2018-19 science standards. The Science Standards Reference is an exploration of all three dimensions of science instruction: science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. This document contains progressions of learning for each discipline, connections to the Framework for K-12 Science Education, and content support for each standard in grades K-8, biology, chemistry, and physics.

Three Dimensional Science Instruction

The four Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) provide organization of content, further clarified in developed in component ideas.

  • PS – Physical Sciences
  • LS – Life Sciences
  • ESS – Earth and Space Sciences
  • ETS – Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

The eight Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) reflect the types of engagement a scientist or engineer encounters as part of their work and should be incorporated in a grade-appropriate manner in all grade.

  • AQDP - Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering) to determine what is known, what has yet to be satisfactorily explained, and what problems need to be solved.
  • MOD – Developing and using models to develop explanations for phenomena, to go beyond the observable and make predictions or to test designs
  • INV – Planning and carrying out controlled investigations to collect data that is used to test existing theories and explanations, revise and develop new theories and explanations, or assess the effectiveness, efficiency, and durability of designs under various conditions
  • DATA – Analyzing and interpreting data with appropriate data presentation (graph, tables, statistics, etc.), identifying sources of error and the degree of certainty. Data analysis is used to derive meaning and evaluate solutions.
  • MATH – Using mathematics and computational thinking as tools to represent variables and their relationships in models, simulations, and data analysis in order to make and test predictions.
  • CEDS – Constructing explanations and designing solutions to explain phenomena or solve problems.
  • ARGS – Engaging in argument from evidence to identify strengths and weaknesses in a line of reasoning, to identify best explanations, to resolve problems, and to identify best solutions.
  • INFO -  Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information from scientific texts in order to derive meaning, evaluate validity, and integrate information.

The seven Crosscutting Concepts (CCC) reflect conceptual understandings that transcend any particular discipline, yet permeate into mastery-level understanding of any given discipline.

  • PAT – Pattern observation and explanation
  • CE – Cause and effect relationships can be explained through a mechanism
  • SPQ – Scale, proportion, and quantity that integrate measurement, appreciation of scale in natural events, and precision of language
  • SYS – Systems and system models with defined boundaries that can be investigated and characterized by the next three concepts
  • EM – Energy and matter conservation through transformations that flow or cycle into, out of, or within a system
  • SF – Structure and function of systems and their parts
  • SC – Stability and change of systems

Note: The State Board of Education sets the requirements for high school graduation (see the High School Policy 2.103). Per SBE Rule, students must achieve three high school level units of science in order to graduate with a high school diploma, including Biology I, either Chemistry I or Physics, and one additional laboratory science course. View a list of the courses required for high school graduation.

Note: The third lab science must come from the list of courses with permanent science course codes or select CTE courses. Special courses, submitted by districts, may not substitute as a third lab science. For a list of permanent science course codes or to locate the select CTE courses that will satisfy the third lab science graduation requirement, consult the correlation of course code document.

Science Standards Coding

The structure of the k-8 science standards includes grade level/course, disciplinary core idea, and standard number.

Example coding for grades K-8 standards:


5 is the grade where the standard is taught.

PS2 indicates that this standard is part of the physical science disciplinary core idea number two: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions.

1 is the standard number. (Consecutive numbering which restarts in each DCI for a particular grade.)

Example coding for 9-12 standards:


BIO1 is an abbreviation for the course. In this case Biology 1.

LS1 indicates that this standard is part of the life science disciplinary core idea number one: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes.

2 is the standard number. (Consecutive numbering which restarts in each DCI for a particular subject.)