Social Studies

Social Studies is the interdisciplinary study of citizenship and government, economics, geography, history, and other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. Social Studies empowers learners to become inquisitive, informed, and engaged members of society who use critical thinking, inquiry, and literacy to prepare for college, careers, and civic life.

Social Studies Standards are Currently Being Reviewed and Revised

In accordance with Minnesota Statutes, Minnesota’s academic standards are reviewed and revised on a 10-year cycle. During 2020-21, the department is in the process of facilitating a review of the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Social Studies.

Minnesotans from Varying Perspectives and Backgrounds Draft Standards

It is important to know that the standards are drafted for Minnesota public schools, by Minnesotans. The Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards for Social Studies review and revision is being conducted by a committee that includes 36 members from across Minnesota. Minnesota Statutes outline who must be represented on the committee, including parents, currently licensed and in the classroom teachers, licensed school administrators, school board members, post secondary institution faculty teaching core subjects, and business community members. From March 2 to June 30, 2020, an application period was open for Minnesotans to apply to be on the standards committee. In July 2020, Minnesotans with varying perspectives and backgrounds were selected for the committee. The committee began meeting in September.

Initial Early Draft of Standards Released on December 1

The committee released its initial early draft of the social studies standards on December 1, 2020. This draft provided a revision of the standards, not the benchmarks, and did not provide a comprehensive view of the final product. The draft was a reflection of where the committee was at in the review and revision process as of December 1, 2020. A public comment period on the draft was open from December 1, 2020, to January 4, 2021. Public comment received informs the development of the next draft.

Early Draft Focuses on Standards

As noted in the introduction of the draft standards document, the committee focused first on the social studies standards themselves, and had not yet dug in to the benchmarks underneath each standard. There may be confusion among some people around the difference between a standard and a benchmark. An academic standard is a summary description of student learning in a content area. Academic standards are comprised of one or more benchmarks. A benchmark supplements the standard and is the specific knowledge or skill that a student must master to complete part of an academic standard by the end of a grade level or grade band. The benchmarks listed in this first draft are simply examples of what could be included under each standard. Historical U.S. and world events like WWII and the Holocaust are being taught in Minnesota schools and will continue to be taught. During the standards review process, benchmarks are fully reviewed and revised after the standards have received feedback from the public in the first draft.

Next Committee Meeting is Tuesday, August 17

We know that our students’ education is at its strongest when Minnesotans are engaged in the planning process. During the standards review process, all committee meetings are open for the public to observe. The meeting is on Thursday, July 22, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Watch the August 17, meeting. The link to the meeting will not go live until the scheduled time. Since releasing the first draft of the social studies standards in December, the department has received significant feedback from throughout Minnesota. To provide time to review all of the public comments, the department built more time into the process of revising the standards. The second draft of social studies standards will be published this summer.

Past 2020-21 Meetings

Social Studies Standards Committee Meeting Questions and Answers 3-25-21

Watch this Page for Updates on the Revision Process

Watch this page for information and updates on the revision process, future public comment periods and meetings. With the extended time period to provide time for feedback, review, and revision, the final draft of the standards will not be completed until fall of 2021. The full standards review process is extensive and standards will not be implemented until 2025, at the earliest.

More Information on Social Studies Standards Review Process

Current Social Studies Standards, Assessments, and Graduation Requirements

The Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Social Studies were adopted in 2012 and were to be implemented by the 2013-14 school year. 
Graduation requirements: State statute requires that all public school students in Minnesota satisfactorily complete all Social Studies standards and their corresponding benchmarks in order to graduate (Minn. Stat. § 120B.024, subd. 1(5)). 

Students are also required to satisfactorily complete three and one-half (3.5) credits of social studies, encompassing at least U.S. history, geography, government and citizenship, world history, and economics sufficient to satisfy all of the academic standards in social studies.
  • A one-half credit of economics taught in a school’s agriculture education or business department may fulfill a one-half credit in social studies if the credit is sufficient to satisfy all of the academic standards in economics (Minn. Stat. § 120B.024, Subd. 2(a)).
Grade-specific benchmarks in grades K-8 are mandated by law. Thus, they must be addressed in the specific grade where they are assigned. The Social Studies Standards contain grade-specific standards for each of the four main disciplines.

The high school social studies standards are banded and must be taught within the grade span of 9-12.

At any grade level, the benchmarks from multiple disciplines can be combined to facilitate integrated, or interdisciplinary, learning experiences.

The standards represent the minimum requirements; schools may offer courses in additional disciplines including psychology, sociology, archaeology, and anthropology.
Assessments: Minnesota does not have a test in social studies. According to state statute, the Commissioner is forbidden to develop statewide assessments for academic standards in social studies, health and physical education, and the arts (Minn. Stat. § 120B.30, subd. 1a).
Civics Test Requirement: In 2016, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law requiring Minnesota students in public schools to pass a civics test. The test consists of 50 out of the 100 questions in the United States Custom and Immigration Services (USCIS) Naturalization Test. The 50 questions are selected by Learning Law and Democracy Foundation, in consultation with civics teachers, and are posted on the Minnesota's Legacy website. Schools or districts determine how to administer the test questions and the logistics for recording the results, which are not reported to the Minnesota Department of Education. Students must pass 30 of the 50 questions, and may be given the questions as often as necessary to pass. Passing this test is not required for graduation. Read the Civics Test Questions Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for more information.

Resources for Instruction and Learning

The Minnesota Center for Social Studies Education (CSSE) is a collaboration of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the following statewide organizations to promote excellence in social studies education. CSSE supports educators with social studies standards implementation, research-based instructional strategies for K-12 educators, resources, and opportunities for professional development:

Standards and Related Information