Statewide Testing

The Minnesota Assessments are designed to measure achievement towards meeting the Minnesota Academic Standards (for the standards-based accountability assessments) and to measure progress towards meeting the WIDA English Language Development Standards (for English language proficiency accountability assessments).

  • For the standards-based accountability assessments, refer to the Academic Standards webpage and the Frequently Asked Questions about Minnesota’s K–12 Academic Standards for more information about the Minnesota Academic Standards. In addition, the test specifications indicate which strands, sub-strands, standards, and benchmarks will be assessed on the test and in what proportions.
The Minnesota Assessments are criterion-referenced assessments, which means they measure performance against a fixed set of criteria: the Minnesota Academic Standards or the WIDA English Language Development Standards. Criterion-referenced assessments are used to determine mastery of concepts and skills and to measure progress toward goals and objectives. While criterion-referenced tests may provide information about how well students have mastered certain concepts, they alone do not illustrate the whole picture of what a student has learned. These assessments provide one data point that should be considered in the context of additional evidence of student learning like student projects and district and classroom assessments.


The majority of assessment resources for district staff are posted to the Resources & Training tab of PearsonAccess Next, including trainings, user guides, and the Procedures Manual for the Minnesota Assessments, which is the main resource for District Assessment Coordinators (DACs). The testing directions and student resources are under the Preparing for Testing tab.

District Assessment Coordinator (DAC) resources (including resources specific to new DACs), along with resources for interpreting test results are available on the District Resources webpage.

Student resources are available to help educators and students become familiar with the tests students will be taking. Available resources include the student tutorial and item samplers. See the Student Resources webpage for more information.

Educator resources are available on the Testing 1, 2, 3 website to provide information on assessment and data resources on one central site, including test details organized by subject and grade, explanations of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) data and appropriate uses in the classroom, and helpful resources for data literacy.

Test specifications are specific rules and characteristics that guide the development of a test’s content and format. They indicate which strands, sub-strands, standards and benchmarks will be assessed on the test and in what proportions. Test specifications are excellent tools for gaining an in-depth understanding of the content and format of the tests. However, they are not meant to be used as the basis for curriculum and instruction. On the Test Specifications webpage, you will find the specifications for the MCA and Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) in mathematics, reading, and science.

Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs) describe the four levels of achievement on the Minnesota Academic Standards. Developed by panels of Minnesota teachers, ALDs from the Individual Student Reports are available on the Achievement Level Descriptors webpage. Achievement level maps, also available on the ALD page, are supplementary to the ALDs and provide a way to view skills by strand or standard across the four achievement levels.

Testing Calendars

Email comments on the Draft Testing Calendar to


Statewide Testing communicates with DACs and other interested district staff in a variety of ways, including a weekly Assessment Update email and various trainings. DACs and District Technology Coordinators (DTCs) automatically receive the email. If you are not a DAC or DTC and would like to receive these emails, send your name, email address, and district name to

Comments, suggestions and feedback for improvements for the Minnesota Assessments are valuable to the growth and effectiveness of the testing program. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and our service providers continually work to improve testing procedures for future administrations. Email feedback to MDE.

Statewide Testing communicates with interested educators through a monthly newsletter and through professional development and trainings. If you would like to receive the Testing 1-2-3 Newsletter, sign up on the Testing 1-2-3 Newsletter webpage.

Student Information System (SIS) and Data Warehouse vendors, check out the Data Extracts webpage to learn more about on-demand test results.

Frequently Asked Questions: Why Statewide Test Results Matter

Minnesota’s statewide tests are objective, standardized measures of student achievement on academic or proficiency standards. Students, families, teachers and administrators use statewide test results as part of a comprehensive system for evaluating learning. Answers to frequently asked questions explain the purpose for statewide testing and why it is important to ensure the integrity of test scores. See Frequently Asked Questions: Why Statewide Test Results Matter.

Opportunities for Participation

Qualified teachers and community members are needed to serve on the MCA Review Committees. Each committee plays an important role in developing quality tests for Minnesota students. The Register for MCA Review Committees page has more detailed information and instructions for signing up.

In addition, a variety of groups and organizations advise the Minnesota Assessment System. Each serves a specific role, and their combined efforts contribute significantly to the program’s success. For information about our advisory groups, see the Statewide Testing Advisory Groups Overview or complete the Statewide Testing Advisory Committee Application if you would like to be part of a committee.

The Future Assessment Design Working Group met from January 2017 through October 2017 to discuss the design of future state assessments. The Future Assessment Design Working Group Report includes the recommendations.

The Assessment Advisory Committee met from August 2017 through October 2017 to develop a comprehensive list of recommendations based on several reports and work group recommendations. The Assessment Advisory Committee Recommendations Report includes the consolidated recommendations from the Assessment Advisory Committee.

The Test Policies and Procedures Committee (TPPC) met from October 2014 through June 2015 and reviewed MDE's policies and procedures to ensure the integrity of test scores. The committee considered best practices in test security and data integrity and made recommendations to the department. Test Policies and Procedures Committee Recommendations and Final Report includes the recommendations and initial assessment of requirements for implementation.

Test Security Tip Line

Maintaining the integrity of tests and test items is of great importance to MDE. Improper or unethical behavior by students or educators undermines the validity of test score interpretation. Please report suspected incidents of cheating or piracy of test items by using the Minnesota Statewide Test Security Tip Line.