Educator Edition: 9-6-22

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An update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 1, No. 1: Sept. 6, 2022


On behalf of the Division of Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment, welcome to the first edition of the Educator Edition monthly newsletter! The Educator Edition is the combined successor to both the Testing 1, 2, 3 and the Curriculum Directors newsletters. Our goal is to provide educators, curriculum directors, and other interested educational staff with links to assessment resources, data and information about instruction, and the implementation of academic standards. The goal is to continue to support the creation of an equitable learning environment. Each month we will feature: Updates From MDE, Upcoming Opportunities, and Important Ideas and Research.

Please forward this newsletter to others in your district, charter, or school who might be interested in the topics. Those who did not receive this originally can subscribe to this Educator Edition newsletter.

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Updates From MDE

Final Assessments Results Release

Assessment and accountability results were released to the public on Thursday, Aug. 25. Assessment results are available in two places on the MDE website for families, educators, and community members to access:

  • The Minnesota Report Card allows users to create graphs and tables to view results for various groups of students across the state and within districts and schools. The Minnesota Report Card User Guide (select Using the Report Card menu choice) provides information on interpreting and using the data on the Report Card.
  • Downloadable data files are under Assessment Files (MDE website > Data Center > Data Reports and Analytics), which provide summary assessment data for the state, county, districts, and schools that can be used to perform analyses. The Assessment Files User Guide (linked in the overview paragraph located at the top of the Assessment Files page) provides information about the content of the files; information is also available on the first tab of the files.

Access the Aug. 25 press release: Minnesota Department of Education Prioritizes Schools for Enhanced Learning Recovery Support Through COMPASS

For more information about accountability results or calculations, visit MDE’s School and District Accountability page, or contact with any questions.

Additional Resources for Final Assessment Results

The following resources are also available on MDE’s Testing 1, 2, 3 site to support district, school, and teacher leaders with understanding and using final statewide assessment results:

  • The Use Statewide Assessment Data page contains four one-page resources for using assessment results based on the report, including Using Public Results. There is also a section on this page that summarizes appropriate and inappropriate uses, as well as a video module outlining the information contained in different MCA reports.
  • The Balanced Assessment System page outlines the purpose and use of student assessments at the state, district, and school level, along with two infographics that can be shared with staff.
  • The Interpret Statewide Assessment Scores page explains what individual student results mean and how the assessments are scored.
  • On the Success Criteria page, the Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs) and Benchmark ALDs outline the knowledge, skills and abilities demonstrated by students on the MCA and MTAS across each achievement level, based on the academic standards for each grade level.

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Academic Standards

Visit the Academic Standards Implementation pages for resources to support your district’s implementation plan in each content area. There are currently resources to support implementation in Physical Education, the Arts, English Language Arts (ELA) and Science. Some resources are available on more than one webpage, such as the Teaching All Standards to All Students Bundling video, which applies to all content areas. These resources are helpful for teachers, curriculum developers, administrators, and for use in professional learning communities.

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Minnesota Data and Assessment Literacy (MnDAL) Professional Learning

The COMPASS Data and Assessment Literacy (MnDAL) team is excited to present teachers and leaders with new opportunities to deepen their learning in using data and assessment to further student learning and instruction.

On-Demand Learning

This school year, four sets of online asynchronous modules will be available to educators across the state via the Canvas digital platform. The first set of MnDAL modules for teachers will launch Sept. 14, followed by the first set for school/district leaders in October. The topics in this first strand include: the role of assessment in a coherent, equitable learning system, characteristics of a balanced, comprehensive and equitable assessment system, and the role of statewide assessments in such a system. Links to access each module’s content will be posted on the On-Demand Learning Page of Testing 1, 2, 3 as soon as they are published in Canvas. CEU certificates will be awarded upon completion of each module.

Student Agency in Learning (SAIL): Pilot Launch

Minnesota’s first formative assessment cohort, Student Agency in Learning (SAIL), is also launching this month. School and district leaders from around the state attended the kick-off meeting on Aug. 16. There will be a second kickoff meeting for site facilitators on Sept. 16, and a teacher launch for all participants on Sept. 27.

At this time the pilot is full, but please keep this opportunity in mind for next school year if you are interested in participating in this blended learning course aimed at strengthening instruction based on evidence, in partnership with students. To learn more, please check out the Pathway 3 section, SAIL, on the Professional Learning Opportunities page of MDE’s Testing 1, 2, 3 website.

Additional Training and Support with Using MnDAL Module Content

Additional opportunities will be available throughout the school year for school, district, and teacher leaders wanting more support in implementing the new learning, materials, and tools from the MnDAL modules. Webinars will be scheduled to correspond with the release of each module set throughout the school year and will introduce the module content, leaving time for open Q & A. Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

An initial webinar will be scheduled in early October to provide an introduction to the on-demand modules. The purpose of this webinar is to provide a brief overview of the topics in this series, including the scope and sequence, release schedule and recommended use of the modules. If you are interested in attending, please look for a link to register in the next edition. Please reach out to with any questions.

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Upcoming Opportunities


Applications are now open for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This year’s award will honor Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Computer Science or Technology teachers in grades 7–12. Consider nominating a teacher in your district, or applying yourself today.

Applications are now open for the Green Ribbon Schools Award, which honors schools, districts, informal education programs, and institutions of higher education that save energy, reduce operating costs, create environmentally friendly learning spaces, promote student health, and incorporate environmental sustainability into the curriculum.

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Important Ideas and Research

A New Approach to Curriculum Mapping

In a Solution Tree article, Jay McTighe summarizes the history of curriculum maps and suggests a new approach, which he terms Curriculum Mapping 3.0:

  • Curriculum Mapping 1.0: Describing what’s taught – This approach was popular in the late 1990s with Heidi Hayes Jacobs’s book, Mapping the Big Picture. Teachers created maps of the topics and skills being taught, when, and for how long, and met in grade-level and department teams to compare their maps and check for gaps, duplication, and vertical alignment. “During this era,” McTighe said, “curriculum mapping software programs emerged, providing educators with electronic tools for easily entering and storing the maps, updating the curriculum, and generating a variety of reports to check for alignment.”
  • Curriculum Mapping 2.0: Aligning with standards – States developed more detailed expectations to guide local curriculum in core subjects. Grade-level and department teams worked to make sure their curriculum maps covered the standards, and some produced pacing guides for each year.
  • Curriculum Mapping 3.0: Mapping performance levels – The first two generations of curriculum mapping looked at inputs, McTighe said—the topics or standards being taught. He believes it’s time to focus on desired outcomes—what students should be able to do with their learning, and how we will know, as measured by authentic tasks or projects that require students to transfer their learning in a real-world context. “Such tasks,” he said, “include a clear purpose, a target audience, and genuine constraints (e.g., schedule, budget, word count). Since these tasks are typically open-ended they frequently offer opportunities for students to work toward their strengths and be creative.” Examples include:
    • Prepare and present a multimedia TED Talk on a researched topic.
    • Create a mathematical model to represent a real-world phenomenon.
    • Conduct a scientific investigation to answer a question – for example, which brand of paper towels is more absorbent?
    • Prepare a public service announcement to encourage citizens to vote, conserve water, or volunteer.
    • Research different perspectives on a contemporary issue, choose a position, and develop an argument supported by reasons and evidence.
    • Create a work of art in a chosen medium to express thoughts and feelings.

An important feature of Curriculum Mapping 3.0 is the reoccurrence of key performance skills across grades. Students should learn, refine, and apply these and other skills through ongoing opportunities in increasingly complex situations. McTighe suggests five benefits of mapping the curriculum around authentic tasks:

  1. When students are engaged in rich and motivating learning experiences, they are more likely to see purpose and relevance beyond the classroom, and have “voice and choice” connected to their interests.
  2. When teachers shift away from covering content toward using curriculum for authentic tasks, students learn to apply their learning in new and varied situations. “Think of coaching in athletics,” McTighe said. “Coaches recognize that their job is to prepare their players for the game (authentic performance), not to cover the playbook page by page!”
  3. This approach naturally integrates 21st century skills (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, innovation) with the curriculum in ELA, math, and other areas.
  4. This approach also focuses on valuable skills that cannot be assessed by standardized tests, like argumentation, design thinking, multi-media communication, historical inquiries, scientific investigations, and collaborative community projects. Evidence of student learning in these areas can be collected in digital portfolios that are part of a school’s aspirational “portrait of a graduate.”
  5. The broader and deeper student thinking helps establish an adult culture of results-focused continuous improvement monitored by teacher teams.

McTighe concludes by quoting his long-time writing partner Grant Wiggins, in saying that students should graduate with a résumé of accomplishments, not just a record of Carnegie Units, seat time, and a GPA.

“It’s Time for Curriculum Mapping 3.0” by Jay McTighe in Solution Tree, March 2, 2021

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How Music Primes the Brain for Learning

In this Edutopia article (linked below), Angélica Durrell’s teaching journey is described as she began teaching percussion instruments in a Connecticut high-school’s after-school program. Her students, many of whom had recently immigrated from Central and South America and were struggling academically, learned to play Pachelbel’s Canon and performed “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” by the Shirelles, singing the lyrics in English and Spanish.

Within a few years, Durrell’s program caught the attention of district leaders, who noticed that students were not only learning music and having fun but also attending school more consistently, improving their English proficiency, and more readily making friends. Today Durrell’s non-profit program Intempo, serves more than 3,000 students in Stamford and Norwalk, Conn. “Consistent exposure to music,” Korbey wrote, “is like learning to play a musical instrument or taking voice lessons, strengthens a particular set of academic and social-emotional skills that are essential to learning. In ways that are unmatched by other pursuits, like athletics for instance, learning music powerfully reinforces language skills, builds and improves reading ability, and strengthens memory and attention.… What makes music learning so powerful is how it engages all those different systems in a single activity.”

Neuroscientist Nina Kraus agrees: “People think of the hearing brain as being a silo within the brain. In fact, our hearing engages our cognitive, sensory, motor, and reward systems. That’s huge. From an evolutionary perspective, being able to make sense of sound is ancient and has engaged all these different perspectives.… What is important is that engaging with sound changes and strengthens how the brain responds to sound.… Music should be a part of every child’s education. Period.”

These findings are a wake-up call to schools that have been shortchanging music in the curriculum. A 2014 study showed that 1.3 million U.S. elementary students do not have the opportunity to take music in school, and middle school access is varied, with students in the Northeast twice as likely to have access as students in the South and West, where only one-third of students did. Given budget cuts and a shortage of music teachers, districts are wise to engage nonprofit organizations and community partners. Not being exposed to music in school feeds many children’s belief that “I can’t sing” and “I’m not musical.” Music curriculum developer Kelly Green said, “When I start singing with students, they often realize singing is just a practiced skill. All these things start happening. They feel this sense of euphoria.”

“How Music Primes the Brain for Learning” by Holly Korbey in Edutopia, April 22, 2022

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Quotes of the Month

“Any time we give students the opportunity to not just analyze the world as it is, but use their knowledge to grapple with how the world ought to be, we explicitly permit them to not just be problem solvers, but to embrace their identity as problem finders.”

Colin Seale in “Finding the Funk: 3 Ways to Add Culturally Responsive Critical Thinking to Your Lessons” in Cult of Pedagogy, July 24, 2022

“Teaching well is the most effective way to show a student that you care and to establish a relationship with them in the first place.”

“Teachers who work with students who grow up in poverty should be especially careful to avoid a potential assumption that growing up with limited financial resources implies growing up impoverished in other ways… Please do not presume that they need an advocate more than they need someone to teach them chemistry.”

“Five Themes: Mental Models for Purposeful Instruction” by Doug Lemov in Teach Like a Champion 3.0: 63 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College, pp. 1-35 (Jossey-Bass, 2021, third edition)

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Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

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