Counting All Students


In August 2020, The Improve Group, an outside consulting firm, evaluated MDE's implementation of the Counting All Student legislation. Their findings are available in their report: The Improve Group Ed-Fi Evaluation Report. 

What is the district role in implementing Counting All Students?

Districts are required to expand the collection of student racial and ethnic demographic data using the forms provided by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). If districts collect racial and ethnic information electronically via a student information system vendor, the expanded groups will appear in those systems. MDE needs to update the racial and ethnic demographic form every five years to ensure the more detailed groups reflect the changing demographics of the state. This means that, in addition to collecting the information for students as they enroll throughout the year, districts should be collecting racial and ethnic demographic information from newly enrolled and currently enrolled students every five years, aligning collection with MDE’s update of the detailed racial/ethnic demographic form. Forms should be given to the parents and guardians of all district students during registration. Districts will submit the collected demographic data to MDE.

Though statewide district-level implementation is a multi-year process, districts have had a role in this legislation since it was passed into law. In 2016, the Minnesota Legislature passed statutes, sections 120B.31, subdivision 3a and 120B.35, subdivision 3, which tasked MDE with collecting more detailed racial and ethnic data on Minnesota’s students. MDE implements this law with its support of district data collection and submission.

Which racial and ethnic categories must districts report?

The racial and ethnic data collected by districts fall into two categories: federal requirements and state requirements. Federal reporting categories fall into seven general populations: (1) Hispanic/Latino of any race; and, for individuals who are non-Hispanic/Latino only, (2) American Indian or Alaska Native, (3) Asian, (4) black or African American, (5) Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, (6) white, and (7) two or more races.

The state reporting categories are an expansion within federal categories. MDE, in conjunction with the State Demographer’s Office, takes into consideration the American Community Survey information for Minnesota every five years, and updates the Racial and Ethnic Demographic Form to reflect the most populous categories in Minnesota as stipulated by the Counting All Students (CAS) legislation.

MDE will readdress the reporting categories on this five-year cycle. Parents and guardians may change their reported racial and ethnic demographic information as often as they feel is necessary. If this change happens, districts will update the submitted student demographic information.

What happens if parents don’t provide racial and ethnic demographic information?

Districts are mandated to submit the federal demographic categories for every student. According to federal law, each child must be indicated as Y (yes) or N (no) for Hispanic and Y or N for one of the other federal groups (see above). If a parent or guardian does not specify a federally required category, the school district must follow its policy on how to determine what category it will submit for that student.

Districts are asked to submit the detailed racial and ethnic demographic information for every student. If a parent or guardian does not specify the expanded state-level demographic information, the school district should not fill this information in, as student data submission guidelines does not require a response. If a parent or guardian selects a more detailed group, the corresponding federal group should also be marked.

No changes can be made to information provided by parents and guardians. Districts will follow their stated demographic information policy in the case of missing federally required demographic information.

When are districts required to start submitting expanded demographic information?

The expanded racial and ethnic demographic information can be submitted only via Ed-Fi using the district’s Student Information System. The more detailed racial ethnic information is not collected in the Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System (MARSS) A/B files. MARSS A/B files only collect the federal racial and ethnic information. The school year in which districts move to onboard to Ed-Fi for their MARSS information is when they will need to begin collecting the expanded student demographic information. MARSS A/B reporting will sunset in 2022-23, which means all school districts must be submitting demographic information and other MARSS data in Ed-Fi in 2022-23.

Districts must work with their Student Information System vendor and their Regional Management Information Center (RMIC) (if applicable) to understand the beginning steps of onboarding MARSS data to Ed-Fi. MDE Ed-Fi staff train and support all district staff throughout the Ed-Fi learning process and are available to answer your Ed-Fi onboarding questions.

How will districts use this expanded demographic information?

The objective behind collecting new data is to ensure all students, including students within student groups, receive a high-quality education.

MDE provides non-identifying data to the public to educate Minnesotans about the successes and needs of our districts, schools, and students across demographic groups. This information is accessible through the Minnesota Report Card and Data Reports and Analytics. MDE is directed to create reports for districts to use in district- and school-level decisions, in conjunction with the reports generated by districts and schools.

MDE provides data to legislators regarding opportunity gaps across various groups that exist in Minnesota’s early education and K-12 school systems. The goal of these data are to provide opportunities to address disparities through state-level policies and legislation.

Legislation requires the Minnesota Department of Education to report graduation rates, results of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), and detailed ethnicity for students of color and American Indian students. The law also requires MDE to expand the Minnesota Report Card reports so they reflect the more detailed racial and ethnic data; however, as the implementation of CAS takes a number of years, these reports will not reflect the robust demographic data until the implementation is complete.

What do these terms mean?

Counting All Students

This is the informal name for the state legislation that dictate MDE’s collection of more detailed race and ethnicity student data. The full text is available for Minnesota Statutes, sections 120B.31, subdivision 3a and 120B.35, subdivision 3.


This is one system MDE uses to collect student-level data. Find the reasoning behind MDE’s move to Ed-Fi, and the long-term data reporting goals Ed-Fi will help MDE achieve, on the Ed-Fi portion of the MDE webpage.

Data Disaggregation

In education, the detailed breakdown of data into smaller subsets is referred to as disaggregation. This term means that MDE has included multiple characteristics and variables, such as race, gender, school, etc.

Counting All Students Update newsletter

A great way to stay informed about the process of implementing Counting All Students is through our newsletter. The newsletter will include important updates, engagement opportunities and more. Subscribe to the newsletter.

Counting All Students Update - September 21, 2020
Counting All Students Update - March 6, 2020

Counting All Students Update - April 24, 2019
Counting All Students Update - January 22, 2019
Counting All Students Update - November 6, 2018
Counting All Students Update - August 29, 2018
Counting All Students Update - May 31, 2018
Counting All Students Update - July 18, 2018
Counting All Students Update - July 25, 2018


The detailed demographics collection form, parent letter, and frequently asked questions to be used by districts are below.

Translated Documents

Final translated versions of the documents are available on our Student and Families Counting All Students page.
V - Smiling Group of Elementary Students with Backpacks
Making sure all Minnesota students count