Educator Edition: 12-4-23

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An update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 2, No. 4: Dec. 4, 2023

Updates From MDE

Computer Science Working Group Update

In May 2023, Governor Tim Walz signed the Computer Science Advancement Act into law, which includes funding for convening a statewide computer science working group comprised of 22 individuals. The working group will include educators, industry and nonprofit representatives, community leaders and high school students. View the list of CS Working Group members.

The working group is charged with developing a statewide strategic plan for long-term and sustained growth of computer science education in all K–12 school districts and charter schools. View the CS Working Group assumptions, based on the Computer Science Advancement Act.

The first meeting of the CS Working Group took place in October and was focused on defining computer science and reviewing strategic plans from other states. In November, the working group focused on building context around what is currently happening with computer science in Minnesota, identifying key priority areas, and generating recommendations for the state’s next steps.

The next steps include forming a writing subgroup that will draft the working group’s recommendations into the strategic plan. In January, the working group will come together to review and provide feedback on the drafted strategic plan and recommendations. The plan will be open for public comment in February 2024 and presented to the Minnesota legislature by March 22.

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Upcoming Opportunities

Computer Science Education Week

What: An annual, week-long program to help spread awareness about the importance of computer science, champion equity, and recognize the contributions of students, teachers and partners in computer science education and the world around us. The theme of this year’s CSEdWeek is “Impacts of Computing” with a specific focus on the impacts of computer science on our lives, including education, privacy, security, and accessibility. Hosted by Andrea Wilson Vazquez, Computer Science Specialist, and Sarah Carter, STEM/CS Integration Specialist.

When: Dec. 4–10, with a webinar on Dec. 6, 3:30–4:30 p.m.

Where: Via Zoom

How: Register for the Dec. 6 webinar

More info: Computer Science Education Week website and the Computer Science page of the MDE website.

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Alternate Assessment Coffee Break Series

What: An opportunity for MTAS test administrators and special education staff to meet together with staff from MDE’s Academic Standards, Instruction, and Assessment division

Why: Share your feedback and connect with other special education staff from across the state

When: Dec. 4, 4–5 p.m., and ongoing second Tuesdays of each month

Where: Via Zoom

How: Register for Dec. 4 Coffee Break


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Assessment Universal Supports and Accommodations Webinar

What: Webinar hosted by the Special Education and Academic Standards, Instruction, and Assessment divisions

Why: Learn how to ensure and coordinate assessment supports and accommodations for students with disabilities

When: Dec. 5, 3:30–4:30 p.m.

Where: Via Zoom

How: Register for Dec. 5 webinar


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Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

What: Nominate an outstanding K–6 educator for the 2024 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

When: Nominations close on Jan. 8, and applications close Feb. 6.

More info: PAEMST website

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Green Ribbon Schools Award

What: Applications for the 2024 Green Ribbon Schools Award are available.

Why: The U.S. Department of Education award honors schools, districts, and higher education institutions that save energy, create environmentally friendly learning spaces and incorporate sustainability into their curriculum.

When: Application deadline is Jan. 5.

How: Send an intent to apply message by Dec. 1 to MDE Science Specialist Angela Kolonich (

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Math Professional Development on MLK Day 2024

What: In partnership with the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) Math Leaders Group, the MDE Mathematics Team (Sara Van Der Werf, Angela Hochstetter, and Mike Huberty) is offering a free professional development session for K–12 Math educators and leaders entitled “Mathematical Rigor, Depth of Knowledge (DOK) and the Minnesota Math Standards.”

Why: Did you know Minnesota’s MCA items are aligned to DOK levels 1, 2 and 3? Did you know the Minnesota Math Standards include a definition of Mathematical Rigor that has a relationship to the DOK levels? Understanding DOK levels is a useful lens to view instructional decisions and materials to assure all students engage in the full depth, breadth, and complexity of every benchmark leading to grade level understanding. This will be an interactive session giving practical ideas to increasing rigor in K–12 math classrooms.

When: Monday, Jan. 15, 9–11:45 a.m.

How: Hybrid: In-person at Mounds View High School or Virtual via Zoom. Note: This session will not be recorded. Visit the MCTM website or register at the Jan. 15 event webpage.

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Important Ideas and Research

Leveraging Computer Science Education as a Tool for Change: A Minnesota Initiative

In our rapidly changing world, computer science has become an integral part of our daily lives, influencing every aspect of society. Recognizing its significance, Minnesota is currently making strides to expand K–12 access to computer science education across the state. In this article, we share some ideas and resources related to viewing computer science education as a powerful tool for change, challenging traditional mindsets, and paving the way for a more inclusive and innovative future.

Computer Science as a Tool for Change:

For a long time, the focus of technology use in schools centered around consuming content. However, the paradigm is shifting toward fostering a mindset that emphasizes ways to create new things with technology. The goal is to change how students perceive their ability to contribute to and impact the world around them through computer science. To achieve this, it is crucial to broaden access to and participation in computer science education, starting with our youngest learners.

Why Computer Science?

In addition to the ways computer science impacts our lives every day, there are many reasons why computer science is seen as an important content area for all students to experience. Developed by CSforALL, the Visions Framework is one resource that allows for the exploration of a variety of rationales for teaching computer science to all students. The Visions Framework Activity encourages educators, administrators, curriculum developers, district leaders, and community members to reflect on their individual values and perspectives related to computer science learning experiences, in order to design a computer science education program rooted in purpose and vision. Take a look at the graphic below from the Visions Framework Activity or visit the CS Visions webpage to try out the interactive activity yourself. Which impact areas resonate most with why you think computer science is important?

Computer Science Visions Values and Impact Areas

The Role of Computer Science in Skill Development:

A 2021 Brookings Institute Study on access to computer science education helps to highlight the ways in which computer science can serve as a tool for change. The study emphasizes that computer science education “provides, prepares, and pays.” It provides skills such as computational thinking, problem solving, and collaboration, all of which are essential for navigating our technology-rich world. It also prepares students to keep up with technological innovations and helps them to stay competitive in the 21st century labor market, regardless of their chosen career path. Moreover, pursuing careers in computer science and technology is shown to be financially rewarding with high expected labor market growth.

Considerations for Educators:

How might educators leverage computer science education as a skill developer for all students? Consider starting with building strong relationships with students. Trust, comfort, and a sense of representation in the classroom contribute to students’ willingness to take risks and acquire new skills, especially if students have not previously felt included in/seen themselves reflected in computer science spaces. Giving students a real-world view of computer science and technology is another way to engage learners, showcasing a variety of ways computer science and technology impact our lives—from everyday use, to career applications, to new innovations, as well as ethical considerations and issues like algorithmic bias—can provide rich discussion and inspiration to get involved. Acknowledging the potential of computer science as a pathway to in-demand and highly paid careers, no matter the industry, can be another way to raise awareness about the importance of exposure to computer science learning. Honest discussions in classrooms can happen about various job fields. Comparing unemployment rates, wages, and starting wages across professions helps students make informed decisions aligning with their goals.

By fostering a holistic approach to computer science education, Minnesota aims to empower its students with the skills and mindset needed to thrive in a technology-driven future.

Reflection Questions:

  • How might computer science be a tool for change in your educational context?
  • What is one classroom implication or takeaway from leveraging computer science education?
  • What is one question or challenge you might face in implementing these changes?

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Division of Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

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