Educator Edition: 4-3-23

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An update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 1, No. 8: April 3, 2023

Updates From MDE

Data and Assessment Literacy (MnDAL) Online Learning Course for Teachers: Strands 2 and 3 Released

MDE is excited to launch the second and third strand content of the Minnesota Data and Assessment Literacy (MnDAL) online course: Assessment Literacy and Formative Assessment for Teachers. The series is aimed at supporting educators and leaders to use assessment and data 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. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are awarded upon strand completion. Educators and leaders are encouraged to use the reflection handouts, facilitation guides, and activities with teachers or as a curriculum for professional learning. Topics are outlined below.

Strand 1: System Thinking

  • 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

Strand 2: Assessment Literacy for Teachers

  • Module 5: Eliciting Quality Evidence of Student Learning
  • Module 6: Interpreting and Responding to Evidence of Student Learning
  • Module 7: Designing and Evaluating Classroom Summative Assessments
  • Module 8: Expanding Student Agency in Formal Classroom Assessment
  • Module 9: Using Minnesota State Summative Assessment Data for Instructional Decision Making

Strand 3: Formative Assessment for Teachers

  • Module 10: Getting Started with Formative Assessment
  • Module 11: Eliciting Evidence During Learning
  • Module 12: Interpreting and Using Evidence During Learning
  • Module 13: Students’ Use of Evidence: Making Learning Visible
  • Module 14: Lesson Planning
  • Module 15: Strengthening the Student’s Role in Learning

You can access the modules in MDE’s Canvas learning management system. Links to the course along with facilitator guides are posted on the On-Demand Learning page of the Testing 1, 2, 3. Instructions for enrolling in Canvas are also posted on the page. For more information or assistance with questions, please contact MDE COMPASS.

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Upcoming Opportunities

Invitation for Science Item Writers

MDE is inviting science educators to apply to be part of the Science MCA-IV Item Writer Training in Summer 2023. The training will be 4 1/2 days total, with approximately 15-20 additional hours independently needed to complete the writing assignments. The 2023 item writer training will be focused on writing engaging grade-level phenomena and questions tied to the 2019 Minnesota Science Standards, with the goal to generate creative thinking and to engage unique teaching approaches to build a repository of phenomena and questions for the Science MCA-IV.

Schedule and Process Details

  • Attend required training/work days (all virtual):
    • June 23 (half-day)
    • July 10–11
    • July 31–Aug. 1
  • Work independently to complete two phenomenon-based scenarios with 7-8 questions for each phenomenon by Aug. 14.

Benefits for Educators

  • Build a robust understanding of and diverse perspectives on the 2019 Science standards.
  • Offer insights to the creation of quality assessments that impact 60,000 students per grade.
  • Expand creative thinking while developing engaging grade-level phenomena and item ideas.
  • Learn skills and practices that support strong classroom assessment.
  • Collaborate with Science colleagues from across Minnesota.
  • Earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
  • Receive monetary participation compensation.

If you are interested in being part of this Science MCA-IV Item Writer Training, please enter your information into this Science MCA-IV Item Writer Training online survey by April 24. Selected writers will be contacted the week of May 1–5. Writers will be chosen based on grade-level and content-area writing needs, as well as experience in developing assessments.

MDE encourages any teachers and educators interested in becoming a science item writer to apply. We want to grow the impact teachers have on our Science MCA-IV assessment and look forward to engaging with more teachers around the state. If you have colleagues who might be interested in participating, please send them this information.

Another way to be involved in Science MCA development is to register to participate in MCA Educator Review Committees. Your input is vital in the development of items to the new science standards. We are always looking for more educators to become involved on the review process. This opportunity is open to science, math, language arts, EL and special education teachers. For more information, please contact Science Assessment Specialists Jim Wood (651-582-8541) and/or Judi Iverson (651-582-8651).

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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 about alternate assessment, share feedback, and connect with other special education staff from across the state. Join us on Tuesday, April 11, 4–5 p.m. via Zoom: Alternate Assessment Coffee Break. Please register for the April 11 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 be discussing MTAS administration questions, MTAS testing considerations (materials prep, scheduling, logistics), and field audit visits. The next Coffee Break is scheduled for May 9, 4–5 p.m. For more information, contact

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Upcoming Arts Curriculum Leaders Meetings

Analyzing and Bundling Arts Standards

Two virtual session options will be held on April 26: 9–10:30 a.m. or 4–5:30 p.m. Content and activities will be the same in both sessions. Register for the April 26 Analyzing and Bundling Arts Standards virtual sessions.

This session will engage participants in processes for analyzing learning progressions and benchmark language as well as offer an approach to bundling benchmarks for arts curriculum. Some learning will be interactive with other participants. Participants are strongly recommended to watch the Introduction to the 2018 Arts Standards video prior to attending this session. This session is designed for anyone leading curriculum development in the arts in their school or district, including curriculum directors and teacher leaders.

Interdisciplinary Standards Bundling (Elementary Level)

Two virtual session options will be held on May 11: 9–10:30 a.m. or 4–5:30 p.m. Content and activities will be the same in both sessions. Register for the May 11 Interdisciplinary Standards Bundling virtual sessions.

This session will engage participants in processes and tips for bundling benchmarks in two content areas at the elementary level. This session is designed for curriculum leaders, arts educators, and elementary educators. Arts integration is an approach to learning that can deepen learning and engagement as students meet benchmarks in more than one content area. Some learning will be interactive with other participants. Participants are strongly recommended to watch the Introduction to the 2018 Arts Standards video and attend the Analyzing and Bundling Arts Standards April 26 session prior to attending this session (though this is not required).

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Scholarships available for Hormel Gifted Education Symposium

Twenty registration scholarships are available for the 2023 Hormel Gifted Education Symposium, which will take place June 13–15 in Austin, Minn. The scholarships have been made available through a one-time only donation. No more than two individuals per school may receive a scholarship. Applicants must be a licensed Minnesota public school teacher, gifted education coordinator/specialist, school counselor/psychologist/social worker, or specialist currently working in a Minnesota public school. Awardees must agree to attend the entire symposium (from 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 13, until 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 15) and agree to report on their experience at a fall building level staff meeting.

Scholarships will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis until all funds have been dedicated. Applicants must send a statement of their interest, and include the name of their school and district. Applications will be accepted only by email with the subject line Hormel Scholarship sent to: This offer is available until May 1 or until all funds have been disbursed.

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Ethnic Studies Book Club: June–July 2023

Educators are invited to participate in an Ethnic Studies Book Club. The group will meet in June and July for three sessions to develop a shared understanding of ethnic studies pedagogy and practices in K–12 education. The club will explore a variety of texts by ethnic studies experts and will have the option to meet in two formats: in-person or virtual (Zoom). Participants will develop, explore, and deepen understanding on the components of ethnic studies and ethnic studies pedagogy, to inform personal practices to build capacity in your teaching positions and learning communities.

The following texts will guide our discussions:

Tintiangco-Cubales, A., Kohli, R., Sacramento, J., Henning, N., Agarwal-Rangnath, R., & Sleeter, C. (2014). Toward an ethnic studies pedagogy: Implications for K-12 schools from the research. Urban Rev, 1-22. DOI 10.1007/s11256-014-0280-y

Cuauhtin, R.T., Zavala, M., Sleeter, C., & Au, W. (Eds.) (2019). Rethinking Ethnic Studies. Rethinking Schools.

For more information on the book club, contact Sue Xiong, Ethnic Studies Specialist. Register for the Ethnic Studies Book Club.

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Important Ideas and Research

An Academic Argument to Ponder: Student Funds of Identity

As several recent Minnesota Academic Standards review committees have considered research on student identity, now seems like an ideal time to share the argument of Moisés Esteban-Guitart about student funds of identity. In a recent chapter titled “Identity in Education and Education in Identities: Connecting Curriculum and School Practice to Student’s Lives and Identities,” Esteban-Guitart argued that “deep learning is facilitated when it stems from, and transforms, learners’ identities” (2019, 159). Esteban-Guitart’s argument builds on well-known research on student funds of knowledge by González, Moll, and Amanti (2005). Esteban-Guitart expanded on psychological definitions of identity by arguing that identity is both who we are and what we do. The author connected learning and identity in a way that illustrated the two-way relationship between the two. The chapter provides a helpful example to help readers understand the two-way relationship between identity and learning:

"When a person becomes a professional soccer player or a university teacher, their initial participation is legitimate, but peripheral (they begin on the bench and play only a few minutes; their first classes are more or less adequate). As the processes of cultural appropriation (learning) take place, they become more of a protagonist and their participation becomes more central (they play whole games; they give some really good classes). But in this process, there is also a transformation of identity: the person adopts certain modes of speech, manners, or objects of the soccer player or of the university professor, being able to incorporate them all into their vision of themselves." (Esteban-Guitart 2019, 164)

This example shows how learning in a new role or position evolves into feeling like the role or position is part of one’s identity. It may spark inquiry into what experiences would lead students to feel that being a writer, a scientist, or an artist is part of their identity.

One of the studies that Esteban-Guitart highlights incorporated the concept of funds of identity and the multi-method autobiographical approach of Bagnoli (2004). Researchers asked students to draw who they think they are, adding that one way to do this was to draw images of what was most significant to them. The teacher in the study learned about student identity from the drawings and the conversations about the drawings, and additionally conducted home visits. The teacher then connected instruction to what she knew about an essential element in one student’s identity (Esteban-Guitart 2019, 168–69). Teachers may find such examples difficult to manage, but thinking of how student identity can be recognized and connected to learning in various ways throughout the year will enhance the educational experience and the learning for all students. To summarize, and leave the reader motivated, let’s use the words of Esteban-Guitart:

"We must start from the students’ previous knowledge, but, above all, from the way they see themselves and what, for them is meaningful, relevant, and makes sense. This act of recognition, especially in the case of identities that have been silenced, under-represented, or ignored, has clear affective repercussions. In other words, to educate is also to legitimize voices (even those that might sometimes cause disquiet) so that they can be decontextualized toward civic, pro-social, academic discourses. And for this, we need to give a leading role to the learner, to facilitate processes of identity investment from which to identify and make explicit their particular activities/practices along with their geographic, social, cultural, and institutional funds of identity." (2019, 171)

Educators, let’s ponder this.

Access: The chapter “Identity in Education and Education in Identities: Connecting Curriculum and School Practice to Student’s Lives and Identities” is available through institutions of higher education library accounts and through MNLink interlibrary loan.

Moisés Esteban-Guitart, “Identity in Education and Education in Identities: Connecting Curriculum and School Practice to Students’ Lives and Identities,” Culture in Education and Education in Culture, eds. Pernille Hviid and Mariann Märtsin (Springer, 2019)

Other references:

Anna Bagnoli, “Researching Identities with Multi-Method Autobiographies,” Sociological Research Online 9(2) 2004.

Norma Gonzáles, Luis C. Moll, and Cathy Amanti (Eds), Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing Practices in Households, Communities, and Classrooms. Maywah: NJ (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005).

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Building Learner Agency

Learner agency is the set of skills, mindsets, and opportunities that enable learners to set purposeful goals for themselves, to take action in their learning to move toward those goals, and to reflect and adjust learning behaviors as they monitor their progress. A dangerous but common misconception is that students either have agency or they do not. However, we know from the research literature and from MDE’s Pilot Student Agency in Learning course, the opposite is true. Learner agency is not a fixed quality, and it can be taught. Additionally, it is a critical piece toward seeing more equitable learning outcomes. Modeling and explicit teaching of the building blocks of agency are central tenets in deeper learning and assessment for learning practices, which include initiatives like formative assessment, graduate profiles, personalized learning, and student-led conferences.

However, when these models are placed within traditional instruction routines that rely heavily on direct teacher-instructs-students approaches to learning, too often the opportunities to explicitly model and teach the skills of agency are limited or absent. Developing these instructional approaches in ways that will support agency also involves addressing the historical legacy of compliance-oriented systems, such as scripted curriculum and accountability-driven assessment practices, which encourage compliant behaviors and hinder opportunities for students to learn the foundational skills of agency.

Learner agency requires an understanding of the learning process, a belief in one’s abilities, opportunities to practice and demonstrate personal autonomy during learning, and the capacity to intentionally direct one’s efforts to meet specific goals. Students with a high sense of agency create, rather than respond to, educational opportunities. In the classroom, they ask for a say in how problems are solved, seek to add relevance during learning, and communicate their interest in learning. They act with intention by recommending goals or objectives, soliciting resources, identifying strategies, and seeking guidance when needed. Students with agency advocate for their learning and that of others, and actively support peers’ learning by offering suggestions, reflecting on the learning process, asking questions, and engaging in rich dialogue.

Building blocks toward learner agency include metacognition (thinking about one’s own learning), self-efficacy (the belief students have about their own abilities), self-regulation (the ability to direct one’s effort toward specific goals), and learner autonomy (how learners choose to engage in learning with peers and teachers to deepen their expertise). For examples of each building block and strategies for teachers to support the development of each, read the full article linked below and engage in the accompanying online module for teachers (MnDAL Strand 3: Formative Assessment for Teachers, Module 15). To further engage in this work, consider attending a Student Agency in Learning (SAIL) Cohort Information session on June 13 or June 23, where you can learn about the opportunity to engage in a year-long course next school year with teacher teams aiming to build student agency in their classrooms.

Minnesota Data and Assessment Literacy (MnDAL) Course, Strand 3: Formative Assessment for Teachers, Educator Module 15, Activity 3 (2023) Building Blocks to Support Learner Agency


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Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

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