Educator Edition: 1-2-24

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An update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 2, No. 5: Jan. 2, 2024

Updates From MDE

American Indian Education eLearning Course Available

The first eLearning course from the Office of American Indian Education on Key Concepts and Terms for Indigenous-oriented education is now available.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) worked with the Tribal Sovereignty Institute at the University of Minnesota Duluth on developing the course, which covers the fundamental contexts and concepts in seven learning modules. The goal of the eLearning course is to better equip K–12 educators, staff and administrators to serve Native learners and families. The course will allow participants to cultivate knowledge about Native people and nations that they can use when teaching and engaging with Tribal governments.

Educators who complete the course can earn one continuing education unit (CEU) credit. The course is endorsed by the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) to count toward the cultural competency license renewal condition. Self-register for the course on Canvas at Enroll in MDE Key Concepts and Terms or sign up through an existing Canvas account with the join code YBTYR9.

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Upcoming Opportunities

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: Apply on the Green Ribbon Schools page. Send any questions to MDE Science Specialist Angela Kolonich (

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National Youth Science Camp Applications Open

What: Applications are now being accepted from high school juniors and seniors in the classes of 2024 and 2025 to represent Minnesota at the 2024 National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp). Two students from each state, Washington, D.C., and select countries will attend the all-expenses-paid program, which will be held June 29–July 20 in West Virginia and Washington D.C.

How: For more information about the program, please see the National Youth Science Academy website.

When: Apply online on the National Youth Science Academy website by 10:59 p.m. on Feb. 29.

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January Curriculum Directors Virtual Session

What: MDE will be hosting two virtual Curriculum Directors virtual sessions that will focus on the timelines aligned to implementation of legislative changes. New and experienced Curriculum Directors are welcome to attend either session as the same information will be provided at each one. Curriculum Director virtual sessions are not recorded and CEUs will not be provided as these sessions are additional support rather than a training.

When: Jan. 9, 7:30–8:30 a.m., and 4–5 p.m.

How: Curriculum Directors must register for the virtual sessions. Details for joining are provided once participant(s) register through the links below:

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Arts Relicensure Virtual Seminars

What: Virtual seminars addressing four re-licensure topics through an arts lens. Each seminar is one hour, with two topics addressed on each date. Attend one or both on any given date. Clock hour forms are provided. Topics include supporting student engagement in arts classes, supporting text reading in arts classes, creating more inclusive arts classes for English Learners, and accommodation and modification in arts classes. Hosted by the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

When: Repeated monthly January through April (Jan. 22, Jan. 31, Feb. 26, Feb. 29, March 12, March 21, April 8, April 17).

How: For details and to register, go to the Perpich Center website.

Contact: For more information or with question, contact Wendy Barden, Director of Professional Development and Resource Programs at the Perpich Center,

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New Coordinator Training: Gifted Education Boot Camp

What: The Minnesota Department of Education in collaboration with the Minnesota for Council for Gifted and Talented and Minnesota Educators of the Gifted will host a series of virtual meetings for new gifted education coordinators.

When: First Wednesdays of each month

  • Jan. 3, 9–11 a.m.
  • Feb. 7, 9–11 a.m. 
  • March 6, 9–11 a.m. 

How: Registration is free and restricted to coordinators in their first three years of service. Register for the Gifted Education Boot Camp. If you need assistance or prefer to register by phone, please contact Wendy Behrens at 651-582-8786.

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Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program

What: The Young Scholars Program is a five-year pre-college scholarship for high-performing middle school students with financial need. The program provides individualized academic advising, financial support, and a pathway to the foundation’s $55,000 per year college scholarship. The Jack Kent Cook Foundation assigns each Young Scholar an on-staff educational advisor who works closely with the student and their family to guide them and oversee the educational opportunities the Cooke Foundation provides throughout high school.

When: The application period is open Feb. 8–May 9. Visit the Cooke Foundation’s Young Scholars page for information on opportunities for students currently in grade 7.

How:  Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarships | Northwestern Center for Talent Development

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Scholars of Distinction Award Program: Virtual Open Office Hours

What: Open office hours for Scholars of Distinction applicants and school staff. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) created this program to recognize academic and intellectual accomplishments by talented Minnesota students. This program celebrates the collaboration among students and educators, as well as family and community members, that promotes ongoing inquiry and the quest for new learning and new understanding of the world.   

Where: Microsoft Teams. Join online for Scholars of Distinction Open Office Hours. Meeting ID: 291 973 763 848. Passcode: bKqgeB

When: Open office hours are Thursdays, Jan. 11, to Feb. 1, 3–4 p.m.

Why: Students or school staff may ask general questions about project elements and/or submission.

How: Students or school staff may log in at any time during the hour.

Contact: Wendy Behrens, 651-582-8786

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MTAS Administration 2024 Informational Meeting

What: MTAS 2024 Informational meeting hosted by Academic Standards Instruction and Assessment Division staff

Why: MTAS Test Administrators and special education staff who will be administering the MTAS will hear about upcoming changes and information for this spring’s administration of the MTAS. Note: This information meeting does not replace the required MTAS Test Administrator trainings that will be available on the Learning Management System (LMS).

When:  Jan. 23, 10–11 a.m. or Jan. 25, 4–5 p.m.

Where: Via Zoom

How: Register for the Jan. 23 MTAS meeting or Register for the Jan. 25 MTAS meeting

Contact: for questions. Email to request accommodations to participate in this event. Note: MDE requires a two-week advance notice to provide accommodations and 48-hour notice to cancel the request.

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Alternate Assessment Coffee Break Series

What: Meet with Academic Standards Instruction and Assessment Division staff and MTAS test administrators and special education staff who administer the MTAS to give feedback and ask questions.

Why: Hear about MTAS 2024 administration highlights in a less formal setting, share your feedback and connect with other special education staff from across the state.

When: Jan. 9, 4–5 p.m., and ongoing second Tuesdays of each month

Where: Via Zoom

How: Register for the Alternate Assessment coffee break


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Cultural Liaisons and Spoken Language Interpreter Workshop Series

What: 2023–24 Cultural Liaisons and Spoken Language Interpreter Workshop Series: Basics of Good Interpreting Practices

Why: In this session about the education interpreting field, you will learn important basic information, including the needed skills, glossary development and the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. You will also prepare and practice your role introduction.

When: Jan. 10, 12:30–2:30 p.m.

Where: Via Zoom

How: Register for the Jan. 10 Basics of Good Interpreting Practices session.

Contact: Billy Brooks (

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MDE Math Team Office Hours

What: An opportunity to meet together with MDE’s Math Team in the Academic Standards, Instruction, and Assessment Division

Why: Share your feedback, ask questions, and connect with MDE’s Math Team and math teachers across the state

When: Jan. 16, from 4 to 5 p.m., and ongoing the third Tuesday of each month

Where: Math Team Office Hours Via Zoom

More Info and Contact: Sara Van Der Werf, 

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Important Ideas and Research

Multi-Genre Reading and the Student’s Experience

In the realm of reading comprehension, educators, specialists, and literacy coaches all recognize the importance of every single text we place in front of Minnesota students. Each text is its own world. Each text offers its own premise or topic, its own style and expression, its own diction and purpose. There is always the tension of giving students exposure over the course of a school year. In our current educational environment, we have an amazing range of text types to experience across literary and expository forms. And there is a wide array of genres to consider. This is a wonderful opportunity to continue to grow student exposure, instruct across academic standards, and promote student choice in reading.

At an instructional level, we know that offering different kinds of text allows students to “flex” and develop different skills. One discussion we have all heard more and more is the move away from former prescribed readings lists that reflected a literary canon that is primarily western, white, and male. With that, we also see the value in sharing the many forms of texts in the 21st century. Students are immersed in so many presentations of text from traditional forms of expository and literary text to zines, webzines, online media, digital storytelling/infographics, graphic novels, graphic design, and more.

From the article, “Blending Multiple Genres in Theme Baskets” from AdLit, “Today’s students read pop culture and media texts with ease and embrace alternative representations such as drawings, film, cartoons, newspapers, and photographs (Gee; Heath & Dewitt; Moje, et al.).” With this in mind, there is so much opportunity to deepen students’ exposure to individual texts across multiple genres.

Going hand-in-hand with exposure, the student’s own reading choices become an important part of increasing availability of other genres, forms, etc. More and more, instruction is distinguishing between reading comprehension that stems from extrinsic motivation versus that which comes from intrinsic motivation. The prospect of choosing one’s own reading can open new doors, not just to motivation but to exploring genres. A study published in 2020 in Kansas English observed: “allowing students to choose what they read through an independent reading program communicates the value of reading for its own sake. Students prefer to read what they have selected themselves and will push to read more challenging content if it interests them (Saaris, 2016).”

The idea of reading across genres creates many opportunities for projects and instruction. Two common methods include book clubs and the Theme Basket Project. Reading book clubs can be structured around shared topics/themes as a means to tie genre to message. The added benefit to this method is the peer-to-peer dialogue students can have as they examine and immerse themselves in their reading. The Theme Basket Project may be more advantageous for younger students as titles are arrayed around a particular theme/message and represent various reading levels and genres. Students select from the “basket” at different times as they encounter the theme/message in different titles. From Kansas English, “Each genre also comes with an opportunity to learn new vocabulary, which can increase student comprehension (Durgin, 2016). Additionally, each genre has a set of skills tied to it for comprehension. For example, Durgin explains that students who are having trouble grasping inferences for a particular genre may grasp sequence of events for another genre.”

The experience of reading across genre is exciting. This avenue will also lend itself to opportunities for more generative work over time and project-based learning. At its core, multi-genre exposure deepens student understanding, and, wonderfully, it allows students to explore.

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Division of Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

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