Educator Edition: 2-6-23

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An Update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 1, No. 6: Feb. 6, 2023

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 series of virtual coffee break sessions for MTAS test administrators and special education staff to ask any questions around alternate assessment, share feedback, and connect with other special education staff from across the state. Join us on Monday, Feb. 13, 4–5 p.m. via Zoom. Please register for the coffee break. Bring your favorite beverage, along with questions and any feedback you have, to share during this informal session focused on alternate assessment. This month we will discuss MTAS Spring 2023 administration highlights, MTAS required trainings, and Summer Review Committees. The next Coffee Break will be March 14, 4–5 p.m. For more information, contact

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Important Ideas and Research

Using BALDs: Take Action in Five Steps

On Dec. 6, the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) played host to a webinar featuring MDE’s math specialists, who discussed the use of Minnesota Mathematics Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors (BALDs) to ensure all students have access to grade-level mathematics instruction. View the recording of that 44-minute webinar.

Now, the follow-up question is: “How do I use these detailed descriptions of what it may mean to ‘Meet’ or ‘Exceed’ the standards?”

To help with this, there are a few action steps you and your math educator friends can take.

Action Step #1

  1. Print out the appropriate grade-level BALDs from the Success Criteria page of the Testing 1, 2, 3 website (under the Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors expandable header).
  2. Read the BALDs two to three times a year.
  3. Reflect and ask: Are all students receiving access to all grade-level standards at a proficient level or above? Are instructional materials at the depth and rigor (DOK) level needed for students to be proficient? What is your evidence of this? (See the Elementary and High School DOK examples in MathBits).

TIP: Include Special Education (SPED) Teachers, Educational Assistant (EA) Tutors, Math Coaches, Principals, and all others with connections to math in the review of these documents.

Action Step #2

In a Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting:

  • Have each teacher complete a self-assessment, highlighting the level(s) in which their students receive instruction: Does Not Meet (DNM), Partially Meets (PM), Meets (M), or Exceeds (E). Securely store the self-assessments, and don’t share individual results.
  • After a self-assessment, have educators select one or two benchmarks in which they believe they can improve instructional opportunities for their students to engage in grade-level material at a “Meets” or “Exceeds” level of understanding.
  • Have a group conversation about general observations and wonderings.

Action Step #3

Choose an additional one or two benchmark to assess. Look at the referenced assessment items in the Minnesota Question Tool (MQT) by copying and pasting the item IDs (number) into the Question ID search bar. Review the content and statistics of items to identify evidence for how to improve instructional choices in your classroom.

Action Step #4

Conduct a school-wide assessment of all math classes, including pull-out math courses. Are all students receiving equitable access to grade-level materials at a “Meets” or “Exceeds” level of understanding?

Action Step #5

Write down what you (or the PLC) feels are the ideal percentages of Does Not Meet (DNM), Partially Meets (PM), Meets (M), and Exceeds (E) questions/points that should be on a quiz or test. Select an existing quiz or test and align each of the questions to a BALD. (Not every skill is represented; you will have to use your professional judgment when aligning some questions.) After the alignment, answer these questions:

  • How many questions/points from the existing quiz or test are in each achievement level (DNM, PM, M, E)?
  • How does the ideal list of percentages compare to what appears on the existing quiz/test? Do you want to change either the ideal percentages, the quiz or test, or both? Why?
  • Select one item to revise as a group so that it aligns to a different BALD.

For more information on the BALDs, consider checking out the following resources:

We welcome your questions, concerns, and requests for clarifications.

Sara Van Der Werf, Mathematics Standards and Instruction Specialist (

Angela Hochstetter, Mathematics Assessment Specialist (

Michael Huberty, Mathematics Assessment Specialist (

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Mathematical Reasoning Part 1: PLC Module

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) provided a free webinar on Jan. 11 on mathematical reasoning in the classroom. This was the first installment of a multipart series of professional development webinars that MDE will begin releasing. Below outlines a possible PLC plan that can be modified and used for any PLC.

Resources for PLC Module

Potential 45–60-minute Agenda for the PLC Module

  • Introductions and Quick Math Task (Desmos activity slides – See Resources above – #1 & 2 and Google Slides #4 & 5)
  • Define Goals for Session (PowerPoint/Google Slides #6 & 7)
  • Define “Sense Making” with Math Practice #1 – found in the 2022 (future) Minnesota Math Standards (Google Slides #8 & 9)
  • Introduce math question from video (Google Slide #10) and have participants respond with their predictions in Desmos (Desmos Slide #3)
  • Watch How Old Is the Shepherd? (Google Slide #11)
  • Individual Think Time – What adult actions lead to these responses (Desmos Slides #4–5 and Google Slides #12–14)
  • Group discussions about adult actions that lead to these responses (Desmos Slides #4 & 5 and Google Slides #12–14)
  • OPTIONAL – Connection to MCAs and Standards (Desmos Slide #6 and Google Slides #15–20)
  • Next Steps (Desmos Slide #7 and Google Slides #23–25)

We welcome your questions, concerns, and requests for clarifications.

Sara Van Der Werf, Mathematics Standards and Instruction Specialist (

Angela Hochstetter, Mathematics Assessment Specialist (

Michael Huberty, Mathematics Assessment Specialist (

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Ensuring American Indian Students Receive an Equitable, Just, and Appropriate Education

Myriad research studies have illuminated the reality that Indigenous students and their families have a variety of negative experiences during their K–12 public schooling. Whether a child in the classroom or parents/guardians meeting teachers and school leaders, they often share that they are not visible or heard. Having conversations regarding cultural sensitivity and creating spaces for Indigenous students to be both visible and feel valued within their communities can be challenging, but the positive outcomes outweigh the current status quo shared by Indigenous families.

Reflection on the part of educators about their own experiences and instruction supports a review of current practices. The creation of culturally and academically affirming schools for Native children requires us, as educators, to ask ourselves some difficult questions (Ferlazzo, 2019):

  • Are we confronting racism that American Indians continue to face and preparing our students to do the same?
  • Are we recognizing the gifts and talents of American Indian students, not simply seeing their struggles?
  • Are we working to recruit Native teachers and ensuring they receive the support and preparation to become leaders within our schools?
  • Are we working to recognize, honor, and incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing, doing, learning, valuing, thinking and being into our teaching?

We continue to review our own practices, classroom settings, and district values and norms. By engaging in these reflective conversations, areas of strength and areas requiring additional support and learning can come to light, and relationships between Indigenous families and schools can be fostered. These relationships need to be grounded in trust, equitable voice, and a commitment to hearing students’ and families’ hopes, goals, strengths, support needs, and voice in order to build an intentional relationship that works toward equitable and appropriate education for our Indigenous students.

S.C. Faircloth, “Ensuring American Indian Students Receive an Equitable, Just, and Appropriate Education,” American Educator, Winter 2020–2021.

L. Ferlazzo, “Response: ‘Something Must Change’ to Address Challenges Facing Native American Youth,” Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo (blog), Education Week, April 22, 2019.

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Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

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