Statewide Testing

Assessments are a way to gather information used for making educational decisions. Teachers and school districts use a variety of assessment types to guide instruction and support students. Minnesota students take statewide assessments to provide districts and the public with information about equitable opportunities for all students to engage with high quality content in school. In Minnesota, two types of statewide assessments are given to students each year to measure student learning.

Each spring, Minnesota students take either the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) or the Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS). Most students take the MCA, but students who receive special education services and meet eligibility requirements take the MTAS instead. Both provide information about student learning of grade level content in Reading, Mathematics, and Science.

Two downloadable Parent Fact Sheet documents about the MCA and MTAS are posted below. These documents contain frequently asked questions and more information about these two tests.

English Language Proficiency Accountability Assessments

Minnesota students identified as English learners (ELs) also take the Access for ELLs (ACCESS) to measure progress toward meeting the WIDA English Language Development Standards. English Learners who receive special education services and meet the participation guidelines may take the Alternate Access for ELLs (Alternate ACCESS).
More information about these tests can be found on the WIDA website linked below under “Related offsite resources.”

The downloadable ACCESS Parent Fact Sheet below answers frequently asked questions and provides more information about these tests.
  •  - 8/17/21
    Resources to understand spring 2021 results in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  •  - 11/30/20
  •  - 8/24/18
  •  - 8/24/18

Statewide vs. Other Assessment Types

Minnesota’s statewide assessments are only a small part of a student’s year-long engagement with assessments. In addition to the statewide tests, individual educators in their classrooms, schools and districts may decide to administer additional assessments to measure student progress as part of their curriculum.

Some Minnesota school districts may also assess students on a school- or district-wide level.

Classroom-level assessments are assessments implemented by the teacher.

The following questions can help you engage in productive conversations about classroom assessment:
  • What types of assessments are used in daily instruction? Why? How are the results used?
  • What are characteristics of good classroom assessments in this learning environment? Why?
  • Are there differences in assessments type from one subject to another? Why?

Content Standards for Statewide Assessments

The MCA and MTAS provide a snapshot of student learning in Mathematics, Reading, and Science, based on what all students are expected to learn in school by the end of the grade they are enrolled. Minnesota’s K-12 Academic Standards define the knowledge and skills all students are expected to learn in each content area. School districts are required to put standards in place so all students have access to high-quality content and instruction.

ACCESS and Alternate ACCESS results are an additional measure of English Learner progress in learning academic English, as described by WIDA’s English Language Development Standards. The language domains assessed include listening, reading, writing, and speaking to ensure all EL’s are developing the English language skills needed to participate fully in the classroom.

More detailed information about the Minnesota’s K-12 Academic Standards can be found on the Academic Standards website.

More information about the WIDA English Language Development Standards can be found on the WIDA website.

Assessment Schedule

Local school districts decide when students take the statewide assessments within a state administration window. The Minnesota statewide assessments are not timed and students may take as much time as they need. Students take these assessments once per year in the spring and spend, on average, two to three hours per subject for the MCA or MTAS.

Each school district determines when its students will take the statewide tests during the spring testing window.

State law limits the amount of time per year students may spend taking school- and district-wide assessments to no more than 10 hours for grades 1 through 6, or 11 hours for grades 7 through 12.

Each district is required to post a calendar that includes information about all statewide, district, and school-wide assessments administered each school year, including why each assessment is given and whether it is required by state or federal law. Contact your school for more information about school- or district-wide tests.

Minnesota Statute 120B.30, Subd 6 requires a database be available to enter information regarding online testing disruptions. The Testing Disruptions Database is intended to provide transparency for online testing disruptions for all Minnesota statewide assessments (MCA/MTAS/ACCESS/Alternate ACCESS). Any information entered is available for the general public to view and search. This database is NOT to be used for reporting technical issues during testing that require immediate attention. Districts and schools must contact the appropriate service provider directly when seeking assistance with technical issues impacting testing. The Testing Disruption Tracking System link is below.

Test Disruption Tracking System

Assessment Results

Student assessment results matter because they help schools, districts, MDE, lawmakers, and the entire state ensure all students have access to a standards-based education no matter where they attend school.

The Minnesota statewide tests are an educational equity tool. Every students who takes the statewide assessments adds to the information available about the standards-based content and instruction taking place in their school and the state.

A parent/guardian can use the summarized information to better understand the standards-based content and instruction at a child’s school. You are also encouraged to look at your student’s classroom work such as projects, classroom assessments, and school report card grades to learn more about the standards-based instruction happening in your student's classroom.

The Minnesota Report Card is a tool that generates school and district reports using public data. Statewide assessment data (i.e. test results) are included in the Minnesota Report Card. Statewide assessment data provides one measure of student learning that schools and districts can use along with other information to evaluate curriculum and instruction.

A link to the Minnesota Report Card is provided under the “Related MDE resources” heading to the right.

Individual Student Results (ISRs), given to students and families in an ISR report, should not be the only information used to make educational decisions for individual students.

Questions you can ask using the information in your student’s ISR:
  • During the previous school year, what were the academic standards covered during classroom instruction?
  • Do the student’s ISR results align or deviate from what the district curriculum emphasizes?
  • Do the student’s ISR results align or deviate from same grade-level trends across this district?
  • Do the student’s ISR results align or deviate from same grade-level trends across other districts that are comparable to this district?

On August 26, 2021, districts received Individual Student Reports (ISRs) for the results of 2020-21 test administration. Contact your District Assessment Coordinator (DAC) to see when ISRs will be distributed to families in your district and for any questions related to student scores. MDE does not have a copy of student reports and does not provide scores to students or families.

Minnesota’s English language proficiency statewide assessments, the ACCESS and Alternate ACCESS, are created to assess individual student comprehension of the English language development standards. Minnesota officially adopted the WIDA English language development standards, and the ACCESS and Alternate ACCESS are built on those standards. It is appropriate to use the results of these two assessments to determine a student’s eligibility to exit English language instruction.

Career and College Readiness

High school MCA scores can be used for placement at all Minnesota State colleges and universities or for Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and College in the Schools programs. Minnesota state colleges accept MCA scores in place of ACT, SAT, and ACCUPLACER. Any high school student who earns a “college ready” benchmark on the MCA is not required to take a remedial, noncredit course in the corresponding subject area.

Districts have a number of requirements to fulfill for students’ career and college readiness. This includes offering students in grades 11 and 12 an opportunity to participate in a nationally recognized college entrance exam (ACT or SAT) on a school day.
  • 2020-21 Interpretive Guide for Minnesota Assessment Reports  - 8/20/21
    Minnesota Assessments, including how to read the reports and interpret the data.
  • 8/12/21
    This two-page quick guide provides an overview of the content of the MCA ISR.
  • 8/12/21
    This two-page quick guide provides an overview of the content of the MTAS ISR.

Student Participation

For Minnesota’s statewide assessments to reflect the full impact of district- and state-level implementation of the applicable standards, as well as district-level success at teaching the standards, it is important for all Minnesota students to take the statewide tests. The impact of this data spans the state, impacts each district, and demonstrates clear trends across time. The data on today’s third graders, for example, helps us understand those same students learning in fifth, ninth, and 12th grade. Also, today’s third graders help us understand every third grade class for years to come, and whether changes to curriculum, efforts toward equity, and emphasis on inclusion make a substantial difference to our students.

In addition, English learners must take the ACCESS and Alternate ACCESS to exit English language instruction. Without these test scores, students will continue to receive English learner services.

  • 5/3/19

Translated Documents

Two Students On Math Test Day

Annual Testing Helps Schools Assess Student Learning

Related MDE resources:

Related offsite resources: