English Language Arts

Minnesota Academic Standards - English Language Arts K-12, 2010


1. What is the purpose of Minnesota’s 2010 English Language Arts (ELA) standards?

The state academic standards set the expectations for achievement in ELA for K-12 students in Minnesota. In setting these expectations, the standards and benchmarks help define the ELA requirements for course credits and high school graduation. All students, including students with unique learning needs, must satisfactorily complete all ELA standards in order to graduate.

The standards and benchmarks for a particular grade level (or grade band in high school) identify the ELA content that is to be mastered by all students by the end of that grade level or band. School districts use the learning progressions of the benchmarks to guide their design of ELA curriculum, mapping “backwards” to determine when content needs to be introduced and practiced.

2. Did Minnesota adopt the Common Core ELA standards?

Yes, Minnesota adopted the Common Core ELA standards (known formally as the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects) and added some additional content. The resulting standards document is the Minnesota Academic Standards - English Language Arts K-12, 2010. (See item #3 on this FAQ for more information about the relationship between the Common Core and Minnesota standards.)

3. How were Minnesota’s 2010 ELA standards developed?

Minnesota actively participated in the development of the Common Core ELA standards, formally known as the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.1 Beginning with the draft Common Core College and Career Readiness (CCR) Standards in the summer of 2009, the Minnesota Department of Education convened a series of educator focus groups. The groups provided detailed feedback on the CCR standards and each successive draft of the K-12 Common Core standards until they were completed in June 2010. Many of the suggestions provided by Minnesota educators were incorporated into the Common Core standards.

During the summer of 2010, Minnesota’s ELA Standards Committee was convened to review and revise the state’s 2003 ELA standards, as required by law (Minn. Statute § 120B.023, subd. 2). The Standards Committee consisted of 28 members representing K-12 teachers and administrators, higher education instructors, parents and content specialists. The revision process included four full committee meetings and numerous sub-committee meetings, consultation of national and state standards documents and research reports, and consideration of feedback provided by the public. During the public comment period, Minnesotans submitted comments online at the Minnesota Department of Education website and in person at regional town hall meetings held in Fergus Falls, Rochester and Roseville. Drafts of the standards were reviewed by national ELA experts and special education professionals.

Overall, there is strong alignment among the Common Core standards, the Minnesota’s K-12 Academic Standards in Language Arts (2003) and the Minnesota College and Work Readiness Expectations—Language Arts (2008). Given the strong alignment, the Standards Committee recommended adoption of the Common Core standards as a foundation for the 2010 ELA state standards. States that have chosen to adopt the Common Core standards are required to adopt 100% of the Common Core standards (word for word), with the option of adding up to 15% additional content.

The Standards Committee analyzed the Common Core standards and identified additional knowledge and skills in order to address particular legislative requirements and to better reflect research and evidence-based best practices in ELA. Because the Standards Committee found the Common Core standards so comprehensive and reflective of what Minnesotans value in ELA education, only two standards were added. Both of those are related to media literacy; one focuses on students being knowledgeable consumers of media and the other requires that students have the skills needed to communicate using multimedia formats. The resulting document is formally titled the Minnesota Academic Standards - English Language Arts K-12, 2010.

The final draft of the committee’s revised standards document was submitted to the Commissioner in August 2010. The standards proceeded through the state’s formal administrative rulemaking process and were officially adopted into rule on November 3, 2011. The standards became effective on Nov. 29, 2011. All schools were required to implement the standards by the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

4. What is the difference between a standard and a benchmark?

Minnesota Statutes require the Commissioner to establish statewide academic standards and benchmarks for ELA in grades K-12 (Minn. Statute § 120B.02, 120B.021, 120B.023). Minn. Statute § 120B.018 defines an academic standard as “a summary description of student learning in a required content area under section 120B.021 or elective content area under section 120B.022.” In general, standards identify the educational expectations or learning goals for Minnesota K-12 students.

Each ELA standard is supported by one or more benchmarks. Minn. Statute § 120B.018 defines a benchmark as “specific knowledge or skills that a student must master to complete part of an academic standard by the end of the grade level of grade band.” Minn. Statute § 120B.023 states, “Schools must offer and students must achieve all benchmarks for an academic standard to satisfactorily complete that state standard.” Finally, benchmarks are intended to inform and guide “parents, teachers, school districts and other interested persons” and for use in “developing career and college readiness assessments under section 120B.30.” (Minn. Statute § 120B.023)

5. Are all students required to master all of the standards in the document?

Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade level and grade band-specific benchmarks, retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades, and work steadily toward meeting the more general college and career readiness expectations described by the standards. For students with disabilities or English learners, these standards are not to be reduced or limited. For those with the most significant cognitive disabilities, the standards can be reduced in depth, breadth, and complexity while still providing students exposure to grade level instruction.

6. Can schools teach more than what is stated in the standards?

Yes, schools can teach more than what is stated in the standards. Additional local standards, if applicable, and curriculum and instructional approaches are determined at the local level by the school district.

7. How do the 2010 ELA standards differ from the 2003 ELA standards?

Overall, the most important difference is that the 2010 ELA standards include all of the Common Core standards, plus additional state-specific content. Other key distinguishing features of the 2010 ELA standards include:

· The standards are “anchored” in college and career readiness skills. Each strand is identified by a strand-specific set of College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards that are identical across all grades and content areas.
· The 2010 standards are fewer in number.
· Grade-specific benchmarks are included for each grade K–8 and for grade-bands 9-10 and 11–12.
· In grades 6-12, there are literacy (reading and writing) benchmarks for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. The K-5 benchmarks include expectations for reading and writing as well, and teachers are encouraged to teach those benchmarks in a range of subjects, including but not limited to ELA.
· Learning progressions are displayed in helpful, user-friendly formats with grade level benchmarks displayed side-by-side to illustrate increased rigor from K to 12.
· A reading foundations sub-strand in grades K-5 is included to foster students’ understanding of the concepts of print, the alphabetic principle, word recognition, phonics, and fluency.
· Greater emphasis is placed on 21st century skills, including those related to media literacy.

8. How is text complexity addressed in the 2010 ELA standards?

A key goal of the standards is for all students to comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school. By the time students complete high school, they must be able to read and comprehend independently and proficiently the kinds of complex texts commonly found in college and the workplace. Research and information on the three components to consider when determining text complexity can be found on pages 2-16 of Appendix A for the Common Core State Standards. View the Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subject . Additional information about text complexity in the Minnesota ELA standards can be found in the document, "What Is Text Complexity?"

9. What are the grounding documents for the 2010 ELA standards?

Documents that are widely respected in the field of English language arts were used as the foundation for revising Minnesota’s ELA Standards. The following documents significantly influenced the development of the 2010 standards:

· Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington, D.C. 2010.
· Reading for Understanding: Toward an R and D Program in Reading Comprehension by Catherine Snow, RAND Corporation, 2002.
· College and Work Readiness Expectations, Minnesota P-16 Education Partnership Working Group, Minnesota Department of Education, 2008.
· Recommended Standards for Information and Technology Literacy, Minnesota Educational Media Organization (MEMO). www.memoweb.org

The Standards Committee also referenced these documents:

· English Language Arts standards from several states (Indiana, Massachusetts, Louisiana, West Virginia)
· Reading Framework for the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress. National Assessment Governing Board, US Department of Education
· Writing Framework for the 2011 National Assessment of Education, Pre-publication edition. National Assessment Governing Board, ACT, Inc.
· Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy, A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2006.
· Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools, A Report to Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2007.
· Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and its Implications for Reading Instruction. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000.

10. What legislative mandates and requirements are addressed in the 2010 ELA standards?

The 2010 ELA standards address several legislative mandates and requirements including:

· K-12 standards and grade-specific benchmarks: State law requires the Commissioner to develop K-12 academic standards and grade-level benchmarks up through grade 8. High school benchmarks may be banded. (Minn. Statute § 120B.021 and 120B.023, subd. 1).
· College and work readiness: In each subject area, the standards and benchmarks must be aligned with the knowledge and skills needed for college readiness and advanced work (Minn. Statute § 120B.023, subd. 2).
· Technology and information literacy: Technology and information literacy standards must be embedded into the standards (Minn. Statute §120B.023, subd. 2). This includes standards from sources such as the Minnesota Educational Media Organization (MEMO), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA).
· Minnesota American Indian Tribes and Communities: The revised standards “must include the contributions of Minnesota American Indian tribes and communities as they relate to the academic standards during the review and revision of the required academic standards” (Minn. Statute § 120B.023, subd. 2).

11. How are the 2010 ELA standards organized?

The standards comprise three main sections: a comprehensive K-5 section and two content area-specific sections for grades 6-12, one for ELA and one for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. In the area of reading only, the strands are further divided into sub-stands.

Each section is divided into strands and sub-strands as follows:

ELA and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects Grades K-5

· Reading
o Reading Literature
o Reading Informational Text
o Reading Foundations
· Writing
· Speaking, Viewing, Listening, & Media Literacy
· Language

ELA Grades 6-12

· Reading
o Reading Literature
o Reading Informational Text
· Writing
· Speaking, Viewing, Listening, & Media Literacy
· Language

Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects Grades 6-12

· Reading
o Reading in History/Social Studies
o Reading in Science and Technical Subjects
· Writing

Each strand begins with strand-specific College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards that are identical across all grades and content areas. With the exception of high school, each section includes grade-specific benchmarks that align to the anchor standards. In high school, the benchmarks address grades 9-10 and 11-12 grade bands.

It may appear that the four strands are independent of each other. However, the ELA standards represent an interdisciplinary approach to literacy, incorporating reading and writing throughout the school day and among disciplines. These standards are based on the assumption that teachers in all content areas have shared responsibility for instruction in reading, writing, speaking, viewing, listening, and media literacy and language.

12. Why are the high school standards and benchmarks divided into grades 9-10 and grades 11-12 bands?

In the 2003 standards, the high school standards were organized into a 9-12 grade band. While that offered a great deal of flexibility to schools in organizing courses and course requirements, it was problematic for mobile high school students. By breaking the band into two grade-band groups, some flexibility is still afforded to the school, but the content within each band is more defined. Students who move across schools have some assurance that they will not miss learning opportunities needed for college and career readiness.

13. Where do I find conventions of writing, vocabulary usage, and language acquisition standards?

The language strand’s standards include the conventions of standard written and spoken English. The vocabulary standards in the language strand focus on understanding words and phrases, their relationships and nuances, and on acquiring new vocabulary, particularly academic and domain-specific words and phrases. The language standards should be incorporated into instruction in the other strands when appropriate. The inclusion of language standards in their own strand should not be taken as an indication that skills related to conventions, effective language use, and vocabulary are unimportant to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; indeed, they are inseparable from such contexts.

14. Is creative writing in the 2010 ELA standards?

Yes, the standards require that students do three kinds of writing: persuasive, expository /informational, and narrative/creative writing.

15. Is handwriting in the 2010 ELA standards?

The standards address handwriting (printing) in the language benchmarks for kindergarten and grade 1. School districts have the option of determining whether to include further printing skills and cursive writing in their curriculum.

16. Are students required to read all of the titles listed in the “Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, and Range of Reading” for K-5 (pg. 44) and 6-12 (pg. 78)?

No, the illustrative text list is meant only to show selected titles that are representative of a range of topics, genres and text complexities; the list does not represent required reading. Texts should be chosen that build on students’ prior knowledge and allow them to study topics or themes in-depth using print and digital formats.

17. Who will teach and assess the literacy standards in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects in grades K-12?

Schools leaders and teachers at the local level determine the courses in which the literacy standards will be taught and assessed. All students are required to satisfactorily complete these literacy standards.

18. Which curriculum works best with the 2010 ELA standards?

In Minnesota, curriculum decisions are made at the local level. The standards are not written with any particular curriculum in mind, and the Minnesota Department of Education does not recommend a particular curriculum, instructional approach or classroom assessment method over another.

19. How are the 2010 ELA standards used on state tests?

The standards identify the knowledge and skills that are assessed on state tests. In accordance with Minnesota statutes, “State tests must be constructed and aligned with state academic standards” (Minn. Statute § 120B.030). The state tests assess student progress on the standards as required by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Results on the state tests are used for system accountability calculations. The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) and alternate assessments (MCA-Modified and Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS)) are the current state tests that help districts measure student progress toward Minnesota's academic standards. Most students take the MCA, but students who receive special education services and meet eligibility criteria may take the MCA-Modified or the MTAS. Both the MCA-Modified and MTAS are aligned to grade level standards. The current state reading tests are administered each year in grades 3-8 and in grade 10.

20. What are the statewide graduation requirements for ELA in Minnesota?

To fulfill the ELA graduation requirements, all students are required to satisfactorily complete “four credits of language arts sufficient to satisfy all of the academic standards in English language arts.” (Minn. Statute § 120B.024) Also, students entering grade 9 in the 2013-2014 school year and beyond must demonstrate “understanding of academic standards on a nationally normed college entrance exam” in reading and writing. (Minn. Statute § 120B.02, subd.2 and 120B.30).

21. Are all of the 2010 ELA standards assessed on state tests?

No, the content that is tested is limited to the reading and writing standards and benchmarks as defined in the test specifications. Test makers are guided by test specifications that provide clarification on the types of questions that can appear on tests. The specifications also provide guidance on the number of questions that will be devoted to each of the standards.

22. What is the timeline for the implementation, assessment and subsequent revision of the 2010 ELA standards?

School districts must implement the 2010 ELA standards no later than the 2012-2013 school year, and students will be assessed on the reading standards and benchmarks on the grades 3-8 and 10 reading tests that year.

Following the 2010 revision, the next time that Minnesota’s ELA standards will be revised is the 2018-2019 school year. (Minn. Statute § 120B.023, subd. 2 (e))

23. Where can I find the 2010 ELA standards, standards for English language development, and this FAQ?

The 2010 ELA standards and this Frequently Asked Questions document can be accessed at the MDE Web site. The English Language Development Standards provide information about the language that English learners need for engaging with the standards In ELA and other content areas. The English Language Development Standards can be found at the WIDA website.

24. Whom should I contact at MDE if I have questions about the 2010 ELA standards?


· Kari Ross, Reading Specialist, 651-582-8455 kari.d.ross@state.mn.us
· Charon Tierney, English Language Arts Specialist, 651-582-8643 charon.tierney@state.mn.us
· Debra Price-Ellingstad, Developmental Education Specialist, 651-582-8568 debra.price-ellingstad@state.mn.us (for questions on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act-IDEA- and students with significant cognitive disabilities)
· Visit the Academic Standards webpage.

The Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts and Mathematics) were authored and published by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington, D.C. in 2010. Information about the Common Core Standards can be found at this link.