Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment Newsletter: 4-3-23

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A semiannual update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 1, No. 2: April 3, 2023

Director's Notes

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By Jennifer Dugan

Director of Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

It’s the sort of news that doesn’t command much media attention: the realignment of two divisions of state government.

Behind the scenes here at MDE, though, the (relatively) newly created Division of Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment has been working hard to meet the goals behind this new alignment.

As part of Governor Tim Walz’s Due North Education Plan, the new division was created with the goal of growing student learning and keeping that goal at the center of all actions. The idea is to be able to answer, definitively, these two questions: What do we want students to know and be able to do? And how will we know if they know it?

Many of the activities within our division are the same as before and will continue to be. We’ll still review and revise the academic standards and provide instructional tools. We’re still going to have MCAs. But thinking of the overall goal of improving student learning as a three-legged stool, one that is supported by equal legs—standards, instruction, and assessment—is foundational for the division. Ideally, each leg shares the burden of support equally, and they likewise support each other.

These three things frame up everything our division does. They are always connected, and they drive our work. And the tools and resources we’ve assembled, and will continue to build, will reflect that.

An example of a resource being developed to demonstrate the connections of standards, instruction, and assessment is the Standards-Aligned Planning Resources to be released later this month. This resource demonstrates the division’s commitment to offering instructional tools and learning resources to support educators’ implementation of instruction aligned to standards. The guide outlines how the Minnesota Questions Tool (MQT) and the Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors (BALDs) can be coupled with classroom formative assessments. The Educator Edition and Assessment Update newsletters will provide more details when they become available. 

In other newsletters and in other ways, we’ve already told you about all these resources. Many of you know what they are and how to find them. But understanding how these resources are connected and watching them become useful in your classrooms on a daily basis is how we grow student learning.

There are, and will be, more examples to come. Our division will continue to provide these supports for all the core academic areas with statewide standards: physical education, arts, science, English language arts, social studies, and mathematics.

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Full implementation of the Arts and Physical Education Standards in 2023-24

The 2018 Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards in Arts Education and 2018 Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards in Physical Education are to be fully implemented by the 2023-24 school year. Full implementation is defined as:

  • Instruction in the arts and physical education for grades K–8 must include all the required 2018 arts and physical education standards and grade-level benchmarks.
  • At the high school level, all students must meet the required standards and benchmarks. For additional information, see the requirement section below and the Graduation Requirements webpage.
  • Achievement of both standards and benchmarks is monitored.

Physical education and arts educators continue to work with both the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and content-specific organizational partners to ensure school district readiness for full implementation. These readiness steps include:

  • Participating in state and local professional learning opportunities.
  • Assessing and revising the current local curriculum to meet new standards and benchmarks.
  • Identifying best practices in classroom management and instructional strategies that align with new standards and benchmarks.
  • Revising local assessment plans to ensure students have the opportunity to demonstrate achieving the standards and benchmarks.
  • Reviewing offerings to ensure that schools are offering the necessary amount of instruction for students to meet the standards and for schools to meet all related requirements.
  • Communicating the transition process to both internal and external local stakeholders.

For more information about the implementation process and available resources, visit the MDE Arts Education Standards Implementation webpage and the Physical Education Standards Implementation webpage.

Arts Education Requirements

  • All students in grades K–8 must meet required state standards and receive instruction in arts education every year.
  • There are five arts areas with K–12 standards and benchmarks: dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts. Elementary and middle schools must offer three and require two arts areas; high schools must offer three and require one arts area. See Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.021, for details.
  • Graduation requirements in the arts include credit requirements and standards requirements. All students are required to satisfactorily complete one arts credit encompassing the high school academic standards in the relevant arts area. View an overview of these requirements. Find additional information on the Graduation Requirements webpage.

Physical Education Requirements

All students in grades K–8 must meet required state standards and receive instruction in physical education every year. Instructional time requirements are determined at the local level. All high school students must meet required state standards and receive instruction in physical education at least once. The amount of credit and the graduation requirement is determined at the local level. Find additional information on the Graduation Requirements webpage.

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Looking Ahead for Standards Implementation

MDE recognizes that many district staff have concerns about managing standards implementation processes in multiple content areas. The Academic Standards team does its best to suggest similar processes in each content area through the Implementation Timelines on the Physical Education, Arts, Science and English Language Arts webpages. Implementation Timelines for Social Studies and Mathematics are coming soon. Look for some of these key topics in the timelines and think about who in your district may serve on your standards implementation teams for each content area:

  • Developing a shared understanding of standards and benchmarks (unpacking/deconstructing): How can your district ensure that district staff and classroom teachers have developed a shared understanding of the new standards? How will district teams identify shifts requiring additional reviews of curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices?
  • Curriculum Review: Do your current instructional materials support student learning to meet the standards? If there are gaps, are there obvious areas for supplemental materials? Or, is your district looking at adopting new curricular materials?
  • Teacher Professional Learning: How will your district provide professional development opportunities from multiple sources in your long-term professional learning plans? Consider resources from MDE, subject-specific professional organizations, regional cooperatives, and other sources. What additional training will your district need to provide to teachers in each content area?

The following table serves as a reminder of the implementation years for each content area’s standards:

Content Area

Full Implementation Year

Physical Education


The Arts




English Language Arts

Proposed 2025–26

Social Studies

Anticipated 2026–27


Anticipated 2027–28


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