Educator Edition: 2-5-24

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An update from Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

Vol. 2, No. 6: Feb. 5, 2024

Updates From MDE

Computer Science State Strategic Plan Open for Feedback

The Computer Science (CS) Working Group has been meeting regularly since October 2023, and has made important progress toward developing a state strategic plan for long-term and sustained growth of computer science education across all public K–12 and charter schools in Minnesota. View the CS Working Group assumptions, based on the Computer Science Advancement Act.

The CS Working Group has identified key priority areas and generated recommendations for the state’s next steps with CS education. A subgroup of writing teams worked throughout December and early January to draft the Working Group’s recommendations into the state strategic plan. Next, the Working Group will come together to review and provide feedback on the drafted strategic plan and recommendations. The plan will then be open for two weeks for public review and comment, starting on Feb. 1. The finalized plan will be presented to the Minnesota Legislature by March 22.

The public’s involvement in this process is a crucial step toward providing every student in Minnesota with equitable access to high-quality computer science education. By working together, we can build a future where our students are well-prepared for the opportunities and challenges of the digital world.

Here’s how to provide feedback:

  1. Review the Draft Plan: Access the draft strategic plan on MDE’s Computer Science webpage.
  2. Share your thoughts, suggestions, and concerns through the comment form available on the Computer Science webpage.
  3. Attend one of four Virtual Feedback Sessions, where you can engage directly with the planning team and share your insights. Sessions will be held via Zoom. Register for the sessions from the links below:
  4. Help us reach more community partners by sharing this invitation with your colleagues, friends, and other staff. The more voices heard from, the stronger and more inclusive the strategic plan will be.

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More MCA-IV Questions Now in Minnesota Questions Tool

Science MCA-IV phenomena and questions are now available in the Minnesota Question Tool (MQT). There are a total of 13 phenomena with 77 questions spread over grades 5, 8 and HS to interact with in MQT. Answer rationales and statistics are also included for most items. The MQT items are a great way to see how items aligned to multidimensional standards and based on a phenomenon will be used to assess the 2019 Minnesota Science Standards.

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Why Participate in the Statewide Assessments?

Participation of all students in Minnesota’s statewide assessments is crucial for districts, schools, and students. Just like having everyone’s photo in a yearbook provides a complete picture of the student body, these assessments, when taken by all students, help provide a complete picture of how well schools and districts are teaching the standards. The more complete the picture, the better it can aid decisions about where resources are most needed, show trends over time, and improve efforts toward equity and inclusion. Parents/guardians can support their children by understanding the purpose of assessments, promoting positive attitudes, and employing stress-reducing strategies. Additionally, results of the statewide assessments provide another opportunity for parents/guardians to advocate for their child’s success in the school and classroom.

Minnesota’s schools independently schedule when students will take the statewide assessments, ensuring flexibility within the testing window set by the state. These assessments are not timed, so students can take the time they need to do their best work. State law limits yearly assessment time, emphasizing a balanced approach to assessments. The MCA and MTAS statewide assessments are aligned with the Minnesota Academic Standards and offer valuable insights into student progress, providing schools and classroom educators with data to improve overall education quality. Similarly, the ACCESS and WIDA Alternate ACCESS are aligned with the WIDA English Language Development Standards, and offer valuable insights into students’ progress toward achieving English language proficiency. Participating students can also benefit from the results in various ways, such as course placement and eligibility for programs like Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO).

The statewide assessments serve as snapshots of student learning, akin to a single image on picture day. However, the full set of photos, representing the entire class or district, provides a more comprehensive view. Similarly, Minnesota’s assessments offer context to educators and policymakers, informing decisions about learning. These assessments contribute to the ongoing improvement of instructional materials, identification of inequities, and allocation of resources needed to support all students. Opting out of statewide assessments can have consequences, affecting availability of individual scores, school and district accountability, and reducing the ability to identify areas for improvement or success.

Consider how your district, school, and educators can encourage student participation in these assessments. Participation is essential for a complete and accurate understanding of learning outcomes in our collective 2023–24 yearbook.

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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). This year, PAEMST celebrates 40 years of recognizing excellent educators nationwide.

When: Applications close Feb. 6.

More info: PAEMST website

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New Coordinator Training: Gifted Education Boot Camp

What: The Minnesota Department of Education in collaboration with the Minnesota 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 (Feb. 7, 9–11 a.m. and 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 Cooke 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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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 trainings, Learner Characteristics Inventory (LCI) and planning for administration in a less formal setting, share your feedback and connect with other special education staff from across the state.

When: Feb. 13, 4–5 p.m., and ongoing second Tuesdays of each month

Where: Sessions held via Zoom.

How: Register for the coffee break


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Arts Relicensure Virtual Seminars

What: Virtual seminars addressing four relicensure 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 (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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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. Two students from each state, Washington, and select countries will attend the all-expenses-paid program, which will be held June 29–July 20 in West Virginia and Washington.

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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Culturally Responsive Teaching in Gifted Education

What: Dr. C. Matthew Fugate, Provost of Bridges School of Cognitive Diversity will make a virtual presentation.

When: March 21, 12:30–2:30 p.m.

How: Save the date. Registration opens in February for this free event.

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Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Learners

What: Dr. Tracy Cross and Dr. Jennifer Riedel Cross from the College of William & Mary will make a virtual presentation on emotional needs of gifted and highly able learners.

When: April 18

How: Save the date. Registration opens in February for this free event.

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Important Ideas and Research

Teaching Science and Engineering in PK–5

Introduction: In 2012, the National Research Council leveraged the latest research in science education to develop A Framework for K12 Science Education (NRC, 2012). The Framework describes a new vision for science education in which students use the three dimensions of science—the science and engineering practices, the crosscutting concepts, and the disciplinary core ideas—to figure out their own science, rather than learning about science others have already figured out. The Framework has been used as a foundational document in the development of state standards across the nation, including development of the 2019 Minnesota Academic Standards of Science here in Minnesota. Districts and schools across Minnesota have been supporting teachers in the transition to our new science standards, which are scheduled for full implementation next fall. One concern many educators and district leaders have voiced is the need to support elementary science teachers in the significant shifts our new science standards require. This brief summarizes two important (and free) resources for both district leaders, and elementary teachers focused on teaching science and engineering in the elementary grades.

Consensus Research: In 2022, The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a consensus study report titled Science and Engineering in Preschool through Elementary Grades: The brilliance of children, and the strengths of educators (NASEM, 2022) which is available as a free download using only an email address. While the entire report is fairly lengthy, the document begins with a 10-page summary of the report with core findings, and recommendations. Each section of the report goes into greater detail for those interested in learning more about the specific research studies included.

The first core finding is the need to prioritize science and engineering in PK–5. Research indicates that teaching science and engineering in elementary school is often not a priority, and that school structures and policies can be a barrier to making them a priority. The second core finding is the need for effective, inspiring, and equitable science and engineering education. Research indicates that children build proficiencies in science and engineering throughout childhood. The third core finding is the importance of high-quality curriculum, and content integration. Research indicates that science and engineering are well-suited to integration with other subjects and can contribute to meaningful connections between content areas when done well. Additionally, high-quality curriculum is an important starting point for instruction, and teachers often adapt materials based on their context and students. The fourth core finding is focused on supporting educators. Research indicates that teachers benefit from a variety of supports across their professional career, including opportunities to collaboratively analyze teaching practice and student thinking, access to physical and digital resources, high-quality, educative curriculum materials, and supportive school leadership. The final core finding is focused on district and school leadership. School leaders play an important role in providing guidance for teachers in the area of science and engineering instruction. Research indicates that when leaders are involved in science and engineering education, educators appear to have greater impact. Additionally, partnerships with science and engineering organizations and universities can support rich professional learning opportunities for teachers. You can download the report for more information, including the 18 recommendations, conclusions, and future directions for research in supporting PK-5 science and engineering, starting on Page 6 (NASEM, 2022).

Practitioner Guide: The practitioner guide Rise and Thrive with Science: Teaching PK-5 Science and Engineering (2023) was released in December in response to the NASEM report and is available as a free PDF download. The purpose of this guide is to provide support for PK–5 educators in trying out new instructional approaches in science through longer, detailed examples of classroom instruction called cases. This resource includes multiple examples (cases) of classroom instruction focused on elementary science and engineering, and samples of student work. The guide analyzes these examples for teachers while highlighting the key elements of research-grounded approaches to teaching science in the elementary grades.

This guide is organized into seven chapters, each with particular focus for teachers. Chapter 1 provides an overview of new approaches to science teaching and learning and introduces the theory behind new instructional approaches. Chapter 2 highlights the knowledge, skills, and abilities that children already have for learning science and engineering, and ways to leverage these competencies through science instruction. Chapter 3 explores student sensemaking, and the use of scientific phenomena and engineering design problems in instruction. Chapter 4 reviews specific strategies for developing student’s sensemaking through the science and engineering practices. Chapter 5 examines the importance of student talk in the classroom, and strategies for creating a positive learning environment. Chapter 6 discusses approaches to assessment that align with phenomena-driven instruction. Finally, Chapter 7 describes how science and engineering instruction can be intentionally integrated in other content areas to make the most of learning time in PK–5. You can download a copy of this important resource for your elementary teachers, or to use as part of a PK–5 Science Professional Learning Community.

Please contact Angie Kolonich (, Science Education Specialist, if there are questions.


Kober, N., Carlone, H., Davis, E.A., Dominguez, X., Manz, E., and Zembal-Saul 2023. Rise and Thrive with Science: Teaching PK-5 Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. (

National Research Council (NRC). 2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. (

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). 2022. Science and Engineering in Preschool Through Elementary Grades: The Brilliance of Children and the Strengths of Educators. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. (

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Division of Academic Standards, Instruction and Assessment

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