Research: PK-12 Systems and Benchmarks
Early Learning (Birth to Kindergarten)
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Office of Early Learning offers information, assistance, and services for children and families that support learning and development during the important period of time from birth to kindergarten. Go to the Early Learning page. See MDE Related Resources for more links.

MDE developed the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (2005) to provide a framework that outlines a common set of developmentally appropriate expectations for young children from birth through age five. It is intended for parents, schools, community organizations, and others who may share in the responsibility and accountability of meeting these expectations. Download the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress.

Minnesota Academic Standards define expectations for students in grades K-12. The standards and benchmarks identify the knowledge and skills students must have by the end of each grade level or band, they define course credit requirements for graduation, and they shape curriculum design. MDE provides research-based, quality curriculum resources for educators to use in the classroom. Visit the Standards, Curriculum and Instruction page.

Minnesota Standardized Assessments
Minnesota students are required to take several standardized assessments over the course of their education. In Minnesota, these assessments are organized into three categories.

Title I Assessments The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) and alternate assessments (MCA-Modified and MTAS) help districts measure student progress toward Minnesota’s academic standards and meet the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Students take one test in each subject. Most students take the MCA, but eligible students who receive special education services may take the MCA-Modified or the MTAS.

Diploma Assessments or GRAD Assessments The Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma (GRAD) are the state tests that fulfill Minnesota’s high school graduation requirement for students who first entered grade 8 in 2005-2006 or later. These tests measure student performance in writing, reading and mathematics. If a student does not pass the GRAD the first time, they may retake the test.

English Language Proficiency Assessments The ACCESS for ELLs and Alternate ACCESS for ELLs are assessments administered to English language learners in order to measure progress toward meeting Minnesota’s standards for English language development. Most English learners will take the ACCESS for ELLs, but English learners who received special education services and meet the participation guidelines may take the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs.

Graduation Requirements in Minnesota 
Minnesota students must meet certain minimums in order to graduate from high school. These include course credit requirements outlined in Minnesota Statutes, state academic standards (or local academic standards), and they must pass the required statewide graduation assessments (see above). An early understanding of these three components enables students and parents to plan for success and stay on track to graduate. Learn more about graduation requirements.

Minnesota Parents Know is a web-based resource filled with information on child development, health and parenting. Its resources are useful for both parents and educators, and offer research-based tips on health, development, nutrition, and safety in raising strong and healthy children. It focuses on children from birth through grade 12, and offers strategies to support children’s learning, newsletters, expert tips, an interactive early childhood and child care search, connections to Minnesota services and resources, video clips, a parent web literacy tutorial and a customized search function of high-quality, non-commercial child development and health websites. Visit the Minnesota Parents Know website.