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

Thank you for your interest in the Minnesota’s K-12 Academic Standards in Social Studies review process. Since releasing the first working draft of the social studies standards in December, the Minnesota Department of Education has received significant feedback from throughout Minnesota. To provide time to review all of the public comments, the department is building more time into the process of revising the standards. The Social Studies Standards Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 2, is canceled. The second draft of Social Studies Standards will be published later this spring. This will provide the time needed to thoroughly review the feedback received. The next Social Studies Standards Committee meeting will be held Thursday, March 25. Watch this page for updates on the Social Studies Standards 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.

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:

Standards and Related Information