Educator Edition: 10-3-22

MDE logo Educator Edition header

An update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 1, No. 2: Oct. 3, 2022

Updates From MDE

Standards Review, Implementation, and Assessment Schedule

The Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards are reviewed and revised on a 10-year cycle. The review and revision process for each content area is staggered, based on a schedule approved by the Minnesota legislature. After revisions are made to each content area, the standards go through a rulemaking process during which the implementation year is set. Also, after revisions are made to the English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science standards, the corresponding Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) and Alternate MCA are developed.

This table provides an overview of the current standards review, implementation, and assessment cycle’s schedule. Because 2023–24 is the implementation year for both the arts and physical education, you can find more information about those two content areas below.

Content Area

Most Recent Review

Implementation Year

Assessing Student Learning

Physical Education



Physical Education Standards Implementation resources

Locally developed classroom assessment of student learning; district common assessments possible.




Arts Standards Implementation resources

Locally developed classroom assessment of student learning; district common assessments possible.




Science Standards Implementation resources

Locally developed classroom assessment of student learning; district common assessments possible; statewide MCA-IV and Alternate MCA-IV in spring of implementation year.

English Language Arts (ELA)


2025–26 (proposed)

Currently in Rulemaking

Locally developed classroom assessment of student learning; district common assessments possible; statewide MCA-IV and Alternate MCA-IV in spring of implementation year.

Social Studies


2026–27 (anticipated)

Currently in Rulemaking

Locally developed classroom assessment of student learning; District common assessments possible; Civics Test Questions delivered by district.



2027–28 (anticipated)

Version 3 is currently under preparation for Commissioner Review

Locally developed classroom assessment of student learning; district common assessments possible; statewide MCA-IV and Alternate MCA-IV in spring of implementation year.

* Delayed by legislature or rulemaking in 2021


Students build artistic literacy in an arts area by applying foundational knowledge and skills while working in four processes fundamental to the arts: Creating, Responding, Performing/Presenting, and Connecting. The Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards in the Arts include five arts areas: dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts. They were revised during the 2017–18 school year. The year by which schools must implement the 2018 arts standards is the 2023–24 school year. To support this transition, the following resources and opportunities are available:

Professional Learning

For curriculum leaders: MDE hosts several meetings for curriculum leaders focused on implementing the arts standards each school year. The first this year will occur on Oct. 26, two session options: 9:30–10:30 a.m. or 4-5 p.m. Content will be the same in both sessions and will focus on providing an overview of the 2018 arts standards and related requirements. Contact Alina Campana, Arts Specialist, for more information and to receive meeting announcements. Note: These meetings are targeted for district-level curriculum and instructional leaders, including teachers who are in leadership roles for the district. If you are also looking for teacher professional learning opportunities, the Perpich Center for Arts Education and professional arts education organizations offer professional learning for teachers.

For teachers: The Perpich Center for Arts Education is a state agency dedicated to supporting arts education across Minnesota. Professional development staff provide district, school, and one-on-one support statewide in the arts including: arts instruction and assessment, curriculum development, district arts programming, standards implementation, and other professional development opportunities.

Standards Implementation Resources

A collection of resources is posted on the Arts Standards Implementation page of the MDE website. This collection includes:

  • Official standards documents in several different formats
  • An overview of current arts education requirements
  • Standards supplemental resources (such as a glossary, transition timeline, introduction to the arts standards, and more)
  • Guides to activities for building shared understanding of standards as well as curriculum development
  • Videos about the arts standards and curriculum development

Physical Education

The physical education standards review and rulemaking were completed in 2017 creating the 2018 Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Physical Education. In 2018, the MDE Physical Education Leadership Team, representing the Minnesota Society of Health and Physical Education (MNSHAPE), the Minnesota Adaptive Physical Education Leadership Committee (MNDAPE), higher education, and Co-Chairs of the MDE Physical Education Standards Development Committee, created a three-year training design to assist schools in implementing the Standards. The onset of COVID-19 delayed the training plan and redirected training to help teachers navigate the educational impact of the pandemic. In 2021, the Minnesota Legislature deferred the implementation of the 2018 Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Physical Education until the 2023–24 school year. Full implementation means that instruction in K–8 includes all the 2018 standards and benchmarks, and courses at the high school level through which students meet physical education graduation requirements must include the 2018 Minnesota Academic Standards in Physical Education. Districts may implement earlier if they desire.

Standards Implementation Resources

To assist schools during the implementation process, MDE created a Physical Education Standards Implementation webpage that identifies applicable implementation resources. Professional development videos have been created for training completed to date. Topics include:

  • An Introduction to SNAPSHOTS: A Physical Education Video Series
  • The Importance and Roles of Standards in Minnesota
  • Introducing the Physical Education Standards
  • Introducing the Physical Education Standards One by One
  • Academic Language in the Physical Education Standards
  • Learning Progressions in the Physical Education Standards
  • Deconstructing the Physical Education Standards
  • Bundling the Physical Education Standards
  • Best Practices in Physical Education Assessment
  • Beyond Bundling: Writing Performance Outcomes in Physical Education
  • Best Practices in Physical Education Grading
  • Applying Physical Education Standards-Based Assessments and Grading Practices

Access all physical education videos on the MNSHAPE website.

Monthly Professional Development

The Minnesota Department of Education, in partnership with MNSHAPE and MN DAPE, will offer pre-recorded videos that will be posted to the MNSHAPE and MDE websites. Below are the upcoming dates and session topics.

  • Thursday, Nov. 10 – MN Physical Education Standards Implementation Review. Past, Present, and Future
  • Thursday, Dec. 8 – MN PE Standards Implementation: Policy and Environment
  • Thursday, Jan. 12 – MN PE Standards Implementation: Curriculum and Backward Planning
  • Thursday, Feb. 9 – MN PE Standards Implementation: Instructional Best Practices
  • Thursday, March 9 – MN PE Standards Implementation: Formative and Summative Assessment
  • Thursday, April 13 – MN PE Standards Implementation: Pulling It All Together
  • Thursday, May 9 – MN PE Standards Implementation: Batting Clean-Up

Back to Top

New Resource for Using Science Results During Academic Standards Revision

Developing a communication plan for sharing assessment results can be an important part of your district’s science standards transition plan. MDE has released a new guidance document to support school districts in communicating assessment results to school communities during standards transition. This resource can be found on the District Resources page of the MDE website (under the Test Score Interpretation Resources expandable heading).

Back to Top

Data and Assessment Literacy Online Learning Modules for Teachers

MDE is excited to announce the launch of the first strand of the Minnesota Data and Assessment Literacy (MnDAL) modules. The MnDAL series of online learning modules is aimed at supporting educators and leaders to use assessment and data as tools to transform teaching and learning. Each module includes slides, articles, videos, activities, and tools that can be applied within classroom instruction. 

The learning series is differentiated through two paths: one for teachers and one for leaders. Each module requires about 60-90 minutes to complete and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are awarded for module completion. Educators and leaders are encouraged to use the downloadable reflection questions, facilitation guides, and activities with a group of teachers or as a curriculum for professional learning.

Individuals can currently access the content of Modules 1–4 for teachers on the On-Demand Learning page of the Testing 1, 2, 3 website through the MDE Canvas learning management system; the leader set will be released in October:

  • Module 1: The Role of Assessment in a Balanced, Comprehensive and Equitable Learning System
  • Module 2: Balanced, Comprehensive and Equitable Assessment Systems
  • Module 3: The Role of State Summative Assessments in a Balanced, Comprehensive and Equitable Assessment System
  • Module 4: Balanced Classroom Assessment Systems

Throughout the 2022–23 school year, additional modules and facilitator guides will be posted on the On-Demand Learning page of the Testing 1, 2, 3 website. For more information or assistance with questions, please contact Kendra Olsen.

Accessing MnDAL Modules

Links to each module's content and a facilitator’s guide are posted on the On-Demand Learning page of the Testing 1, 2, 3 website. The module links will direct you to MDE’s Canvas page. You will then need to click the “Join this course” button in the upper right corner.

If you do not have an MDE Canvas account, select the “I am a new user” radio button, enter your email in the Username field, enter your first and last name in the Full Name field, and agree to the Acceptable use policy. Select “Enroll in Course” and then select “Go to the Course” to access the modules in Canvas. Note: You will receive an email asking you to finish setting up your account by creating your password for future logins.

Back to Top

Student Agency in Learning Pilot Cohort has Launched

The Student Agency in Learning (SAIL) Teacher Launch was held on Sept. 27. This meeting officially kicked off Minnesota’s first statewide formative assessment cohort of teachers and leaders.

About 87 participants have committed to this year-long learning journey, representing 12 districts and schools from around the state. We applaud their efforts and are eager to see how they implement this learning throughout the year. The remaining meetings this school year will be held at each school’s site, led by the site’s designated facilitator and held virtually for facilitators/site leaders, led monthly by MDE staff and WestED’s Formative Insights team, to support each site’s implementation of SAIL in their community.

Below is a summary of the information shared at each launch session. Feel free to review the materials and share with staff who may be interested in participating in SAIL in future years. If the course goals and objectives align with your school or district’s professional learning plan, goals, or other initiatives you are working on with teachers, please keep this opportunity in mind for next school year.

SAIL Teacher Launch Session – Sept. 27

This session was held for teachers participating in the SAIL course this school year.

Session Goals:

  1. Explore the definition of formative assessment and consider how engaging in learning formative assessment might take shape in your own classroom
  2. Learn what to expect as a teacher who is engaging in the SAIL course pilot
  3. Understand the learning approach of the SAIL course pilot and the SAIL calendar for your site.

The materials shared at the teacher launch session can be accessed here, including an agenda, slide deck, articles, and the session recording. 

SAIL Facilitator Launch Session – Sept. 16

This session was held for designated SAIL Community of Practice facilitators at school sites participating in the SAIL course this school year.

Session Goals:

  1. Explore the SAIL professional learning design and the role of the SAIL Community of Practice facilitator to support the inquiry-based learning model that is foundational to the SAIL course design;
  2. Explore the features of the Community of Practice model within the SAIL course, and how it is different from traditional PLCs or teacher meetings;
  3. Understand strategies facilitators can use to engage teachers in applying SAIL design features (noticing, peer review, lesson planning) to strengthen classroom implementation of formative assessment;
  4. Learn where to find SAIL facilitation resources and ways to maximize the Community of Practice resources and agendas;
  5. Understand the SAIL pilot processes for data collection and review of pilot data, and site expectations for pilot participation;
  6. Explore role expectations for all course participants, including teachers, course facilitators and site leaders 

The materials shared at the facilitator launch meeting may be accessed here including an agenda, slide deck, articles, and the session recording.

SAIL Site Leader Launch Session – Aug. 16

This session was held for school and district leaders participating in the SAIL course this school year.

Session Goals:

  1. Understand the SAIL professional learning design, and the use of inquiry cycles to support teacher and student learning;
  2. Explore strategies to leverage key features of SAIL (noticing and sense-making, journals, peer review process, classroom application, student surveys, CoP meeting design) to support teachers and students;
  3. Understand the Community of Practice design, the role of the Community of Practice facilitator, and how to support new facilitators in this role; 
  4. Engage in readings and videos that introduce the relationship between formative assessment and student agency;
  5. Understand the SAIL pilot processes for data collection and review of pilot data, and site expectations for pilot participation;
  6. Explore role expectations for all course participants, including teachers, course facilitators and site leaders.

The materials from the school leader session may be accessed here including an agenda, slide deck, articles, and the session recording. 

  • SAIL Implementation Planning Tool (Google Doc) - During the Leader Launch session we shared a SAIL Implementation Planning tool for schools and districts to use to help set a site schedule and plan for implementation. Please create a copy of this Google Doc if you want to use it with your school site. 
  • SAIL course preview access - Preview access has been set up using the following credentials. Facilitators and teachers will receive their own individual account log in credentials for the Minnesota-specific course. 

For more information about SAIL or other opportunities offered through the Minnesota Data and Assesmsent Literacy (MnDAL) initiative, please visit the Professional Learning Opportunities page on Testing, 1, 2, 3 or contact Kendra Olsen.

Back to Top

Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors and the Minnesota Question Tool

The Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs), posted on the Success Criteria page of the Testing 1, 2, 3 website under the Achievement Level Descriptors expandable header, describe the knowledge, skills and abilities students typically demonstrate across the four achievement levels on the Reading and Mathematics MCA-III for benchmarks in the current English Language Arts Academic Standards (2010) and the current Mathematics Academic Standards (2007). Descriptions are outlined for each benchmark from the standards at each achievement level.

The purpose of the Benchmark ALDs is to promote equity for all students across the state by clarifying the expected learning outcomes for instruction and classroom assessment, which are aligned to the Minnesota Academic Standards in reading and mathematics. They also support teacher analysis of the depth of their curriculum, instruction, and classroom assessments.

Previously, some released items and passages were available on the MDE website and referenced within the Benchmark ALDs as examples of how individual questions on the MCA-III assess knowledge, skills and abilities at each achievement level. MDE has developed a new resource for educators, the Minnesota Questions Tool (MQT), where released items, including rationales and data are now found. The MQT provides educators with content aligned to the Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards to support or supplement their grade-level instructional materials for the classroom. In June and August 2022, more released items of Reading and Mathematics MCA-III questions have been added and are referenced on the Benchmark ALDs. Educators are able to explore the Benchmark ALDs and the released items in the MQT to evaluate the rigor of instructional content across achievement levels.

A training module for the Benchmark ALDs is now available on the Success Criteria page of the Testing 1, 2, 3 website, under the Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors expandable header.

Back to Top

Upcoming Opportunities

Alternate Assessment Coffee Break

Meet with Alternate Assessment Specialists to Give Feedback and Ask Questions

The Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment Division will host a coffee break session for MTAS test administrators and special education staff to ask any questions around alternate assessment and to share your feedback. Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 4–5 p.m. via Zoom: Alternate Assessment Coffee Break. Bring your favorite beverage, along with your questions and any feedback you have, to share at this informal time focused around alternate assessment. This month, we will share the exciting changes to the Spring 2023 MTAS with the addition of Reading and Science field test items. For more information, contact

Back to Top

Webinar on Assessment General Supports and Accommodations

Learn How to Ensure and Coordinate Assessment Supports and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

The divisions of Special Education, Assistance and Compliance, and Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment will host a webinar for all staff who coordinate, administer and ensure general supports and accommodations for students with disabilities participating in the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA).

Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 3:30-4:30 p.m. via Zoom: Assessment General Supports and Accommodations Webinar. Please register for the Assessment General Supports and Accommodations webinar. This webinar will focus on how the current general supports and accommodations available for the MCA are helpful to students with disabilities and ways Individual Education Program (IEP) teams can plan for successful assessment experiences for students. Special education teachers, special education directors, and district/school assessment coordinators are encouraged to attend. For more information, contact

Back to Top

Apply to be an MTAS Field Auditor

Each year, MDE employs Field Auditors to observe MTAS administrations in selected schools around the state and gather evidence to evaluate the validity and reliability of the assessment. MTAS Field Auditors serve as evidence-gatherers; their job is to obtain evidence that will help determine 1) the extent to which the training of the administration was properly implemented and 2) the consistency of the administration for students across the state. For 2022-23, MDE is looking for auditors to do between 8-10 days of work from February-May 2023.

MTAS Field Auditors must be able to travel within an approximate 100-mile radius of their home area. This year, MDE is especially in need of auditors who can serve the regions of Sartell, Rochester, and the Twin Cities Metro.

Field auditors must have these minimum qualifications:

  • Current or retired educator or administrator, with licensure in Minnesota
  • Experience working with students with disabilities in an educational setting
  • Three years of classroom experience

If you or one of your peers may be interested in learning more about this contract work, an application to become an MTAS Field Auditor as well as details on compensation, schedule and tasks can be requested by emailing

Back to Top

Apply for the U.S. Senate Youth Program

Applications are open for the 61st annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Please be sure to read the U.S. Senate Program Brochure posted on the U.S. Senate Youth Program page of the MDE website for details about the program and selection process.

Back to Top

Curriculum Directors Virtual Meeting

All curriculum directors are invited to meet with the MDE Academic Standards team at one of two virtual meetings on Oct. 11. This will be a time to connect to each content specialist to discuss standards implementation and to submit any questions. Join either meeting on Zoom: Oct. 11, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. or Oct. 11, from 4 to 5 p.m.

Back to Top

Important Ideas and Research

How to Hold a Better Class Discussion

In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, Jay Howard from Butler University said many teachers feel frustrated when they introduce a discussion and get awkward silence from the class. “Why the blank faces?” Howard asked. “Did the students fail to read the assignment? Was it the early hour? Perhaps you were the problem. Did you make interesting material seem dull? Did you misjudge what they would find engaging?”

The benefits of discussion are well documented: more-active student engagement, higher-order thinking, empathy with other points of view, moving important information to long-term memory. In addition, Howard said, “as novice learners, students are better able than the instructor to clear up confusion and identify next steps in logic or problem-solving … students have an easier time seeing the steps that an expert takes for granted and, as a result, can clarify them for one another.”

Howard believes good discussion requires insight and careful planning. For students, there’s the fear of volunteering and being wrong – or feeling embarrassed for talking too much. “Many students will decide it’s safer to stay silent,” Howard said, “and leave the floor to the handful of classmates who are eager to talk.” For the teacher, launching a discussion means relinquishing some degree of control. What if their responses are all misleading or incorrect? Worse, what happens if a student makes a comment that is offensive?

He suggests these strategies for improving the quality of discussions:

  • Set expectations up front. The teacher needs to explicitly address the norm in the first class, conducting a lively discussion in which all students participate.
  • Have a discussion about discussions. He suggests having a first-day discussion about students’ previous experiences with discussions, sharing research findings about the benefits of active verbal participation, and establishing class norms for civility. For example, it’s OK to challenge and refute ideas or positions, but not to attack someone personally or engage in name-calling.
  • Ask better questions. Obviously, good discussions are not launched by asking, “Are there any questions?” or posing questions with a single correct answer. “A good question,” Howard said, “is one that allows for multiple perspectives. It shows that the topic can be viewed from a variety of angles, even though they may not all be equally relevant or helpful.”
  • Don’t give up on discussion in a large class. Howard recommends randomly assigning students to teams that sit together and are frequently asked to huddle and discuss key questions and report their ideas to the full class.
  • Use think/pair/share. Students think about a question, write their own response, and share it with an elbow partner. Then, rather than asking for volunteers to share their responses with the whole group, which may result in the “usual suspects” getting all the air time, Howard recommends asking, “Whose partner had a brilliant insight? Whose partner really hit the nail on the head and summarized an important point?”
  • Take the conversation online. Continuing a lively conversation in an online discussion forum is a way to encourage all students to participate – and then have their contributions recognized.

“How to Hold a Better Class Discussion” by Jay Howard in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 13, 2022

Back to Top

Backward Planning Student Scaffolding Supports

In this Cult of Pedagogy article, a differentiation strategy developed by Melanie Meehan, a Connecticut elementary social studies and writing coordinator is described. The idea is to look at the whole task – for example, tooth brushing for a toddler – and figure out what skills will be needed to get there. If the child is struggling with the fine motor coordination involved in putting toothpaste on the toothbrush, doing that for the child will help them get started and build confidence. Later, when brushing becomes more automatic, the child learns how to apply toothpaste to the toothbrush. Several other examples:

  • Narrative writing: Providing students with an idea, or three pictures in a sequence, to get them started.
  • Research: Supplying pre-selected resources and notes on the topic and having students write a summary.
  • Multi-step math problems: Doing the first few steps and then having students take over and finish.

Gonzalez and Meehan have these suggestions:

  • Start by analyzing the task. By thinking through the steps involved in completing an assignment, and remembering where students struggled in the past, the teacher can decide the best points at which to provide support.
  • Involve students in the process. If students can see all the steps in a task, they can tell how much support they need, and where.
  • Gradually remove the scaffolding. As students gain confidence and competence (and perhaps curiosity) about the task, the teacher has a plan to do less and build independence.

“How to Use Backward Chaining to Differentiate Instruction” by Jennifer Gonzalez and Melanie Meehan in Cult of Pedagogy, June 20, 2022

Back to Top

Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Sign up to receive the Educator Edition newsletter

Manage Preferences  |  Unsubscribe  |  Help  |  MDE Website