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.

Current Developments

The 2011 Social Studies Standards will be reviewed in 2020-21 and are reviewed every 10 years thereafter. This process will likely take until the end of the 2021-22 school year. 

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.

K-3 - Foundations of Social Studies (all disciplines) balanced among the four social studies disciplines, with no single discipline emphasized over another. 
  • Grade 4 - Geography of  North America 
  • Grade 5 - History of North America (up to 1800)
  • Grade 6 - Minnesota Studies – state history and government and Minnesota’s role within the larger context of the country. 
  • Grade 7 - United States Studies (history and government 1800–present)
  • Grade 8 - Global Studies (interdisciplinary; world geography and contemporary world history)
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, archeology, 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.

Content Specialist Contact Information

For more information, contact Filiz Yargici, Social Studies Specialist, at

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:
Doing Social Studies Video Series! 
This video series supports implementation of the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards for Social Studies.
  • The grades K-5 videos provide benchmark-by-benchmark explanations along with suggested instructional strategies for educators and activities for students. 
  • The grades 6-12 videos offer effective social studies instructional strategies. 

Standards and Related Information