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We are here to support Minnesota Science Educators as we adapt to our new Minnesota Science Standards!  Visit MDE's Standards Implementation webpage to download the standards themselves.

Recently, Dr. Hillary Baron provided a set of Indigenous Science Resources to MnSTA colleagues in a Zoom Presentation.

Please find these resources on this page.  Here is the presentation she made:




Peter McLaren of Next Gen Education, LLC, has prepared a Crosswalk between the benchmarks of the 2019 Minnesota Science Standards and the related Next Generation Science Standards performance expectations. You can use this document to locate resources published by many organizations which support NGSS standards. Access the Crosswalk of Minnesota Benchmarks and NGSS Performance Expectations.  (XLS version here)




MnSTA Board Member Dan Voss mapped out connections between Minnesota standards, the NGSS, and the OpenSciEd curriculum. This and other resources are available on the website North Star Science.



This letter reiterates our support for the important task ahead!


NGSS Lesson Adaptation with Mary Colson

Mary Colson, chair of the science standards committee and NGSS writer, prepared a video that describes her journey in changing her instruction to fit a three-dimensional approach and an article that provides suggestions for how teachers may start their own journey to implement the 2019 Minnesota science standards.

In this video, Mary Colson describes her journey in changing her instruction to fit the three-dimensional approach.



You can access the video and article here.



MDE Webinar Science & Math Series

Part 1 Modeling, A Common Math and Science Practice

 Description: The 2019 MN Science Standards Practice #2 - Developing and Using Models - is similar to the 2022 Math Standards Practice #4 - Model with Mathematics. Come learn from the MDE Science and Math Specialists about what 'Modeling' looks like in math and science courses and how this practice promotes critical thinking and reasoning. This is an interactive webinar, we will even do an experiment virtually. You will get the most out if it if you attend on via computer vs a phone, but all are invited. You will need a writing utensil, one sheet of paper and 10 inches of scotch tape to participate in the experiment. Resources from this session are found HERE.



View on Youtube




MDE logo

Preparing for New Minnesota Science Standards and Instruction

John Olson, Minnesota Department of Education Science Specialist and colleagues are writing a series of articles for the MnSTA newsletter in preparation for the review of the science standards in 2018-19. They are including ideas about science learning and teaching that have come from research and teaching experience, which will influence the writing and implementation of our next science standards.

The tentative sequence is:

  1. When will we get new standards? Will we adopt national standards? (December 2016)
  2. What are science teachers saying about our current science standards? (March 2017)
  3. What new ideas about science learning might guide our next science standards? (May 2017)
  4. What new ideas about science instruction might guide our next science standards? (September 2017)
  5. What new ideas about science assessment might support our next science standards? (December 2017)
  6. How can I influence the next science standards? (March 2018)
  7. How can I use my summer to get ready for upcoming science standards? (June 2018)

  8. Standards Review Progress: What is Happening with the Science Standards Review? (Sept 2018)
  9. After the first draft of the Science Standards, what are the next steps? (Dec 2018)

  10. Current Status of the MN Science Standards for 2019 - March 27, 2019  (March 2019)

  11. How do we prepare to implement the new Science Standards? (May 2019)

  12. How do I improve my distance learning lessons to deepen the learning of my students? (March 2020)

  13. How can I reflect on my teaching and build for next year? (June 2020)
  14. How do we keep working toward the new science standards during this demanding year? (Sept 2020)

  15. As we transition into three-dimensional instruction, what are some lesson-planning models to use? (Jan 2021)

  16. Why were the science standards delayed and how should the change impact my planning? (plus a couple of other standards related updates) (April 2021)

  17. How should we select instructional materials to support the new science standards? (June 2021)

For further information see the MN Dept. of Education standards webpage

MDE Quick Links

MDE Science Page (standards, awards, misc.)

MDE Statewide Testing (MCA resources)

Frameworks for the Minnesota Science & Mathematics Standards


Articles (most recent articles listed first):

17. How should we select instructional materials to support the new science standards?

June 2021

16. Why were the science standards delayed and how should the change impact my planning? (plus a couple of other standards related updates)

April 2021

15. As we transition into three-dimensional instruction, what are some lesson-planning models to use?

Jan 2021

14. How do we keep working toward the new science standards during this demanding year? 

Sept 2020

13. How can I reflect on my teaching and build for next year?

June 2020

12. How do I improve my distance learning lessons to deepen the learning of my students?

March 2020

11. How do we prepare to implement the new Science Standards?

May 2019

10. Current Status of the MN Science Standards for 2019 - March 27, 2019

March 2019

9. After the first draft of the Science Standards, what are the next steps?

December 2018

8. Standards Review Progress: What is Happening with the Science Standards Review?

September 2018

7. How can I use my summer to get ready for upcoming science standards?

June 2018

6. How can I influence the next science standards?

March 2018

5. What new ideas about science assessment might support our next science standards?

December 2017

4. What new ideas about science instruction might guide our next science standards?

September 2017

3. What new ideas about science learning might guide our next science standards?

May 2017

2. Getting Ready for New Science Standards

March 2017

1. When will we get new science standards? Will we adopt national standards?

December 2016



How should we select instructional materials to support the new science standards?

An important aspect of quality science teaching and learning is the support provided by instructional materials. Some teachers are good at designing their own instructional plans by weaving in several resources. However, that process requires a lot of work and expertise. Many teachers tend to rely on instructional materials selected by the district to guide their instruction. Hence, the choices made by the school district can have a large impact on student learning. Also, the experience of selecting instructional materials can serve as professional learning for participants.

In this article, I will address instructional materials used throughout the school year to support instruction. Sometimes people call this “the curriculum.” However I prefer to use “curriculum” to refer to the entire plans for instruction.

When looking at the available instructional materials from vendors you will encounter many claims:

  • “aligned to NGSS or even Minnesota standards:”
  • “research-based”
  • “use three-dimensional instruction” our uses NGSS colors
  • “written by NGSS authors” or “content experts”
  • “was evaluated by the EQuIP rubric” or an independent agency

Relying on vendor claims can be risky. Often vendors have repackaged old materials to make them appear to support three-dimensional instruction and fit certain sets of standards. Here are some suggestions for considerations in selecting instructional materials.

Participants in the selection process should understand and embrace the vision for science education that underpins the new Minnesota science standards.




Students being taught about

Students figuring it out  (explaining phenomena)

Science knowledge separated from science skills

Students using science  and engineering practices (questioning, investigating, arguing) and crosscutting concepts to develop explanations and concepts

Reading textbooks and answering questions at the end of the chapter

Students using multiple sources of information to summarize ideas

Learning ideas disconnected from their experiences

Exploring phenomena related to daily life and curiosities

Oversimplification for students who are less able

Support all students to engage in sophisticated science and engineering practices.


            (an expanded view of this vision is available at this link)


How well the instructional materials support good pedagogy aligned with this vision is an important consideration in selecting instructional materials. This is more important than whether the materials “align” with all benchmarks at a particular grade or course. Supplemental materials can be adapted to support particular concepts. 

Participants should also consider other science and district learning goals, such as

  • developing curiosity and a desire for life-long learning,
  • preparing for citizenship and careers,
  • valuing science and caring for the earth,
  • culturally responsive teaching, and
  • integrating with other content areas and future instruction.

 Participants should also understand the qualities of well-designed lessons and instructional units. They can work together to design a sample unit for their grade range using some of the design ideas from the previous newsletter. Another approach is to review units evaluated by a panel of NGSS reviewers at the NGSS Design Badge project. 

A well-developed and researched process that districts can use to guide their work is NextGen_TIME. This is a suite of tools and processes to evaluate and implement instructional materials. It includes processes to

  • Prepare for selection
  • Prescreen materials based on a small number of important criteria
  • Paperscreen to evaluate prescreened materials based on rubrics
  • Pilot of the use of the materials
  • Plan for implementation

This process involves a large amount of time, but it is well worth the effort to support good learning. If time is not available, districts can use some of the tools in a shortened process.

 There are projects to develop open-education resource materials that can be adapted without cost. Several states are working together with researchers on the OpenSciEd project. These materials go through a rigorous process of development, pilot testing, and professional development for users. Several units are available for grades 6-8. They use a sequence based on an integrated approach rather than the discipline specific assignment to grade levels of the Minnesota benchmarks. The project will develop high school and elementary units in the upcoming years.

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Why were the science standards delayed and how should the change impact my planning? (plus a couple of other standards related updates)


On April 2nd, the MN Department of Education (MDE) announced that full implementation of the science and English Language Arts (ELA) standards will be delayed by one year. That means that districts and schools should plan for full implementation of 2019 Minnesota Academic Standards in Science (MASS 19) by the 2024 – 25 school year.  In that year the Minnesota Comprehensive Exams (MCA IV) in science will begin to assess the new standards.


This change is a response to concerns raised by districts through their superintendents that the pandemic has caused many districts and schools to have insufficient time for professional development and planning to implement the new standards. The year of implementation is set through the rulemaking process and since science and ELA standards have not completed that process, MDE can change the date requested for full implementation in the rulemaking proposal.  Delaying the implementation of standards that have already completed rulemaking, e.g. physical education and the arts, will require legislative action.


Districts and charter schools may determine the schedule they choose to use in transitioning to the new standards as long as the standards and benchmarks are fully taught by 2024-25. Since the new standards and the associated pedagogy will result in improved learning by students, it would be wise for districts and schools that are ready to go ahead with the transition to the new standards to continue down that path.  Many districts had planned to start teaching the new standards to some grades as soon as next year and that plan could continue.


For districts and schools that need the additional year for planning, I recommend the following:

  1. Help teachers understand the pedagogy shifts for the new standards (3 dimensions, phenomena-based instruction) and start using them in their current instruction. This is a prerequisite for further curriculum work.
  2. Start designing unit plans, by bundling together benchmarks that could be taught together. This could be done by looking for benchmarks with similar core ideas or developing themes.
  3. Study the three dimensions involved in the benchmarks in the unit by using the grade range guides from A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards Appendices E, F, and G.
  4. Plan a storyline for the unit by involving relevant phenomena and sense-making activities.

A couple of good resources for curriculum planning are Ambitious Science Teaching and Five Tools and Processes for Translating NGSS into Instruction and Assessment.

If quality 3-dimensional instructional materials are available, they can be helpful in steps 2-4. If the district is studying instructional materials for possible adoption, it is helpful to plan a sample unit so the potential instructional material can be evaluated for their support of good pedagogy. A good guide for evaluating instructional materials is NextGen TIME (Toolkit for instructional Materials Evaluation)


Update: Rulemaking for science standards

The documentation by MDE and the Executive branch of the state government has been completed. They propose that the drafted standards become rule and be implemented by the 2024-25 school year. (Benchmarks are not included in the rule language.) The tentative next steps are the following:

  • A sixty day period for public comments on the proposed rules. This will be announced in late April.
  • A possible hearing on the rules in the summer.
  • A ruling by an administrative law judge.

Note: the MN Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) is planning to revise science licensure rules after the standards have received rulemaking approval.


Update: Licensure –Flexibility for Out-of-Field Permissions

A recently adopted resolution by the MN Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) provides additional flexibilities for science teachers who will need an out-of-field permission (OFP) to teach in a science content area or grade level outside of the scope of their existing license(s) due to the impact of the proposed science standards. 

Specifically, the resolution allows school districts to seek an out-of-field permission (OFP) for impacted Tier 3 and Tier 4 science teachers without needing to meet the OFP posting requirements.  Additionally, these OFPs will not be counted toward the lifetime total for those Tier 3 or Tier 4 science teachers affected by the science changes.

This resolution will be in effect until the Board adopts new rules to determine long-term options for teachers impacted by the changes to the K-12 science standards. Summary Document,  Full Resolution, PELSB statement on current science licensure

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As we transition into three-dimensional instruction, what are some lesson-planning models to use? - Jan 2021


A key feature of instruction related to our new science standards is that students are actively working to “figure it out, not just learn about.” The “it” most often refers to a phenomenon for which students might be curious enough to want to figure out how it works or what causes it. Some of the more effective phenomena are local and connected to student’s experiences, such as weather events, behaviors of local animals, rides at the playground, technological objects, or events in the news.

A quick view of a suggested model of instruction is that students encounter a phenomenon by being presented a situation by pictures, video clips, an object, a demonstration, or a story. They make observations and form questions. The teacher helps the students consolidate the questions and determine questions to investigate and methods to use. Usually the teacher has planned for likely questions and a range of investigations, including experimental work, data analysis, and/or text research. The students work towards explanations and the teacher works with them to consolidate their ideas toward the desired conceptual understanding. In the process the teacher helps the students improve their skills at using the science and engineering practices and the crosscutting concepts.

You may be familiar with the 5E instructional model or lesson planning sequence: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. With this new focus on figuring out phenomena, here is how the 5E model could look:


  • Students Engage with Phenomena: Teachers present phenomena and students develop questions to investigate. These activities provide opportunities for teachers to assess students’ prior knowledge and current thinking.
  • Students Explore Phenomena: Students work to resolve the questions in their minds through exploration experiences. They look for patterns in the observations and data to find cause and effect relationships in developing explanations. The teacher serves as a provider and coach in their work.
  • Students and Teacher Explain Phenomena: Students present their explanations and experiences and the teacher helps them make sense of the findings. The teacher introduces science concepts to help students consolidate the ideas into scientifically accurate explanations shared by all students.
  • Students Elaborate Scientific and Engineering Concepts and Abilities: The teacher challenges students with a new situation to apply and extend the concepts the students have learned. This may involve exploring a new phenomenon.
  • Students and Teacher Evaluate Students’ Learning: Student’s receive feedback on their understanding and use of the science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas throughout the stages of the learning. In this stage teachers do summative assessments to find evidence of student learning and provide reporting.

The description of these stages comes from Teaching Science in Phenomenal by Brett Moulding and Roger Bybee.

Another way to plan this instruction is with a model called Gather, Reason, and Communicate (GRC). This model was introduced to many Minnesota leaders and teachers by Brett Moulding at the MnSTA Conference and a workshop in November. (The conference recording is still available for registrants – Friday 8 PM)

  • Gather: Students explore phenomena, ask questions, make observations, and plan and carry out investigations to obtain information. Teacher present phenomena, support students in developing questions, provide resources, and facilitate students making connections among core ideas and crosscutting concepts related to the phenomena.
  • Reason: Students analyze and interpret data to use as evidence. They develop models, construct explanations and develop arguments. Teachers set expectations for students that they use evidence to support explanations and help students to develop skills to analyze data.
  • Communicate Reasoning: Students write, speak and use models to communicate reasoning about the causes of phenomena. They reflect on their learning. Teachers provide feedback on student products and provide opportunities to revise their models and explanations that communicate their reasoning.
  • Apply Beyond the Classroom: Use three-dimensional learning to make sense of analogous phenomena beyond the classroom.


A graphic of how the Science and Engineering Practices are used in the GRC Model




The GRC model with many examples is presented in Engaging Students in Science Investigation Using GRC by Brett Moulding et. al. GRC workshop participants have developed over 300 lessons using the GRC model. They are posted at the Going3D w/GRC website.  More lessons are being developed by Minnesota teachers to add to the collection. Watch for GRC workshops for Minnesota teachers in late spring or early summer.

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How do we keep working toward the new science standards during this demanding year? - Sept 2020


As you have been rushing to implement science instruction in the challenging structure this year, you may have a thought in the back of your mind, “Oh, we are supposed to also work toward new science standards.”


A question you may be asking: “Is MDE sticking to the timeline of full implementation by 2023-24?”  Yes, that implementation date is still in effect. To delay implementation would present several problems, including causing schools to implement both Science and ELA in the same year and creating conflicts with contractual work for the MCA development.


Many schools are planning to start teaching the new standards at some grades in 2021-22, (e.g. 3, 6 and some high school courses), so they may want to plan curriculum and select instructional materials this year. Others are planning to wait with starting the new standards to accommodate other needs, such as lining up staffing and designing courses. A suggested timeline and some alternatives that districts might consider are on the MDE Science webpage.


It would be good to start using the pedagogy associated with the new standards as we continue to teach using the current (2009) standards. One approach is to start tweaking lessons to strengthen the use and teaching of some of the Science and Engineering Practices. A goal should be to have students actively involved in making sense of phenomena, and through that work develop skills and learn concepts.


These practices are especially helpful in sense making:

  • Asking questions and defining problems: Students ask questions about phenomena or problems they observe or that you present to them. They determine questions to investigate and the method of investigating or collecting information.
  • Developing and using models: Students illustrate their explanations for phenomena and we help them move their mental models toward more scientific understandings.
  • Arguing from evidence: Students use evidence to justify their claims about phenomena or engineering designs.


These practices may be seem challenging to implement in distance and hybrid instruction. Here are some suggestions.  You may wish to begin a lesson or series of lessons with a phenomenon that is engaging to students and could lead them to the concepts you want them to learn. Several collections of video clips are available, but local phenomena are particularly engaging. You could have students post questions on sharing platforms such as Jamboard or Goggle Docs. It is helpful to have available sources of data, simulations, simple investigations and demonstrations for students to pursue their questions. In some cases, teachers are having one student of a lab team perform an experiment and other members receive the information via video at their desk or at home.


Here are a few resources to investigate.


  • Paul Anderson from Montana discusses some science distance instructional strategies at this YouTube site.
  • Paul Anderson’s website The Wonder of Science, has videos about the science and engineering practices, ways to teach inquiry with them, and a collection of phenomena video clips.
  • Next Generation Science has a document called Keep Teaching Science:Successful Strategies to Adapt K-12 Science Experiences for Distance Learning with many examples.


Watch for professional development opportunities that will be available this year.


I hope this year is rewarding for you and your students.


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How can I reflect on my teaching and build for next year? - June 2020


The events of the past few months and weeks provide an opportunity to reflect on our actions as science teachers, as an educational institution, and as community members. At the Minneapolis memorial service for George Floyd, Al Sharpton used the phrase “take your knee off our necks” to highlight oppressive conditions from slavery through the current situation. That phrase made me think back on my days of instruction in urban schools and my current work.


Did I “put a knee on students’ necks” by

using unsupportive discipline practices,

being too busy and schedule-driven to provide individual attention,

giving assignments and tasks that limited the curiosity, creativity and potential of students,

providing my science knowledge rather than helping students develop their own, and

perpetuating an education system that marginalizes certain students?


Since many of us are drained from the difficult end of the school year, it is a good time for reflection and goal setting before beginning the process of planning for the unknowns of the next school year.  A good launching point is the STEM Teaching Tool Practice Brief 67: Focusing Science and Engineering Learning on Justice-Centered Phenomena across PK-12. NSTA also has a collection at Social Justice in the Science Classroom.


As you prepare for the next school year, here are some other things to consider.

  • The instruction model is likely to shift during the school year and include some distance learning and some limited in-school instruction. MDE is providing recommendations for both science instruction for both scenarios at this website: Student Instruction COVID-19
  • It is a good time to consider some of the beneficial aspects of distance learning so we can build on them. Look for and contribute to the Resources for Teaching Remotely on the MnSTA website.
  • The timeline for implementing science standards is not likely to change. So begin incorporating some of the teaching practices advocated by the new standards, e.g. phenomena-based instruction, integrating the three dimensions, and engaging students in model development and argumentation.
  • Watch for professional development opportunities this summer. Many of the workshops that have been in-person have gone to a virtual format and there are more webinars and conferences that are now accessible and affordable. Review the rest of this newsletter and watch for email announcements.


Have a good summer of recovery and renewed vision.

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How do I improve my distance learning lessons to deepen the learning of my students? - March 2020

You have gotten past the rush of getting some science lessons out the door. The school required you to put together some packets to send to homes or put your instruction online. So you’ve followed your unit plans and found some readings and worksheets, you’ve created some video lectures, and you’ve modified your grading strategies. These are all reasonable first steps to make distance instruction manageable. So now you are thinking, “how can I strengthen that instruction so that students are doing scientific thinking above just learning facts”? Here are a few thoughts.

Promoting scientific thinking

The skills of asking questions, conducting investigations, gathering data, using reasoning, and forming explanations are important skills for our students and entry points for learning science concepts. We want to move from students “learning about” to “figuring it out.” While students do not have access to the equipment and tools they would use in the classroom, the environment of the home, yard and the events around them can provide opportunities to advance those skills.

Keeping social interaction

It is probably impossible to replicate the personal interaction you have with your students. You motivate and reward them with your smile, comments, and body language. So personalize your communications, such as lesson directions and feedback in a way that lets your personality show through. Find ways for student-to-student interaction through study buddies, group interaction via phone, and quoting student work.

Attending to equity

Student learning should not be dependent on accesses to devices and the internet. The lessons you provide for students without those resources should also provide the stimulus for students to generate questions, develop investigations, and work with evidence to develop explanations. MnSTA will be collecting examples of lessons that are designed to be usable for at-home instruction without the need for internet connections and that also maximize student scientific thinking.

Letting phenomena spark the learning

You may have learned about phenomena-based learning through workshops about our new science standards. This instructional strategy provides students with events in nature and the built world that they work to explain. The teacher selects a phenomenon that could lead toward the science concepts (core ideas) that are desired and then designs the sequence of activities that will help students develop explanations. These activities utilize and build investigation and thinking skills often by focusing on particular science and engineering practices.

For example, students could be asked to make observations in their yard as the weather changes, such as the melting of snow banks, the buds on trees and the greening of grass. They can generate questions to go with the observations (sometimes called “noticings and wonderings”). These can be feed back to the teachers, e.g. by messages on the teacher’s voicemail or shared document. The teacher may select a more defined guiding question, such as “what factors cause something to change more rapidly in one part of the yard than another?” Students determine what data they could collect, such as temperature by touch or thermometer, soil samples to analyze by moisture (time to dry out or spread on paper towels) and particles using magnifiers such as phone cameras or water droplet magnifiers, and sun/wind exposure. Based on data collected over time students make claims explanations and provide their evidence and reasoning. A set of data and explanations could be given to other students to ask questions and suggest alternative explanations

Such an approach make need to occur over time while more direct instruction on other topics may occur. To replace some laboratory experiments students could be asked to make sense of data they are given. Hence the scope and sequence that had been planned for the classroom, where one topic is completed before another is started, could be modified for a project-based approach.

Some resources that explain the use of phenomena in lesson is found at this nextgenscience site. Some videos that provide examples of phenomena are at this WonderofScience site. A set of lessons have been collected that illustrate this approach, Phenomenal GRC Lessons (GRC stands for Gather, Reason, Communicate – a grouping of the science and engineering practices). Asterisks have been placed by items that use materials normally found at home and usually do not need internet connections.

Keeping up your own professional growth

Mary Colson, NGSS writer and standards committee co-chair, developed a video describing her journey of changing her instruction to strengthen student thinking and wrote an article making suggestions for starting your own journey. The article and video are available at this MnSTA professional development page.

Key Resources for Science Distance learning

MN Dept. of Education Academic Standards COVID-19 Resources, which include a document of suggestions for science distance learning.

Supporting Student’s Science Learning during School Closures, posted at the STEM Teaching Tools site. This provides guidance for promoting science thinking through at-home learning and also has documents for parents and students.

MnSTA Resources for Teaching Remotely provides a Forum for adding resources, a page of online learning resources, a collection of analog lessons, and links to content area resources.


Invitation for Minnesota Science Teachers

We would like to invite you to apply to be part of Building Capacity for Science Assessment: Science MCA-IV Item Writing Workshop in the summer of 2020. The workshop will be 4 1/2 days total, starting with a half-day virtual training on June 12, followed by in-person meetings on June 24-25 and July 7-8. Approximately 10-15 additional hours may be needed outside of these dates to complete the writing assignments. This summer, we are focused on writing engaging grade-level phenomena tied to the 2019 Minnesota Science Standards and also generating question ideas for each phenomenon. We hope that the summer 2020 workshop goals generate creative thinking, engage with your unique teaching approaches, and build a repository of engaging phenomena for the Science MCA-IV.

If you are interested in being part of this MCA-IV item writer workshop this year, contact us for more information or enter your information by April 3, 2020 at this location

We encourage any teachers and educators interested in becoming a Science item writer to apply. We want to grow the impact teachers have on our Science MCA-IV assessment and look forward to engaging with more teachers around the state. If you have colleagues that might be interested in participating, please share this information.

Jim Wood and Judi Iverson

Science Assessment Specialists

651-582-8541, 651-582-8651


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How do we prepare to implement the new Science Standards? - May 2019

As of the writing of this article in late May, the science standards committee has completed its work and submitted the recommended standards and benchmarks to the commissioner of education. The next step is for the commissioner to give her approval and submit the standards to Minnesota’s Rulemaking process to make them legally binding. However at this point the commissioner’s approval is being delayed.

To help districts and teachers start planning, the recommendations of the committee are posted at the MDE science webpage (at the bottom of the page). After the commissioner has approved the standards, the final draft will be published and MDE will develop an implementation plan.

The committee and the commissioner are recommending to rulemaking that the full implementation year be 2023-2024. By that year schools should use the new standards for all grades and courses and that is the year the MCA will be based on the new standards. (MCA IV in ‘24)

Based on that schedule, districts may consider this implementation timeline:

2019-20 – professional development focusing on using the science and engineering practices in current instruction.

‘20-21 – curriculum (e.g. unit plans) and assessment development and continued professional development focusing on phenomena-based instruction and developing storylines.

‘21-22 – teach the new standards in K, 3, 6, and a ninth grade class

‘22-23 – add 1, 4, 7, and another HS class

‘23-24 – add 2, 5, 8 and biology (to line up with the grades that are tested on the MCA)


Here are a few ideas to keep in mind as you start planning to implement the new standards:

  • MDE will prepare a document that provides suggestions for implementation activities over the span of the five year period.
  • As you plan courses and any changes in teacher placement, notice that the previous 9-12 physical science standards have moved to 8th grade and that there has been an increase in high school earth and space science standards. As a result most high schools should consider requiring a year-long earth science course. However this may not be needed until 2023-24.
  • MDE will have discussions with the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) about adjustment to license requirements to support the new standards.
  • Some professional development organizations are planning to provide professional development to support the new standards and content knowledge that teachers may need.


The MDE Academic Standards division is developing a website called the Standards Portal which will provide resources for districts and schools in implementing standards-based education. The website will include tools for districts in supporting effective instructional practices and designing curriculum. The Portal will be unveiled at a Standards Mini-Conference on August 9 at MDE. There will also be a breakout session on the shifts in the new science standards. The agenda and registration will be at the MDE website.

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Current Status of the MN Science Standards for 2019 - March 27, 2019

The second draft of the 2019 Minnesota Science Standards was published February 14th. There were about 470 responses on the feedback survey (1/4th of them from groups) and about 50 emailed comments. There was a wide range of ideas that participants presented with the largest issues of concern being the sequence of benchmarks in middle and high school, inclusion of contributions of American Indian communities, and the wording of benchmarks and examples. Thank you to all the persons who took time to complete the survey and elaborate on their ideas.

On March 20th, the Science Standards Committee analyzed the data from the feedback in light of the goals the committee had set for the standards. They considered four options for the sequence of benchmarks for the third draft and used a deliberate process for decision-making. The result was a strong consensus for continuing the sequence of the second draft with benchmarks in the following categories:

- 6th grade – Earth and Space Science

- 7th grade – Life Science

- 8th grade – Physical Science

- High School – Chemistry, Earth & Space Science, Life Science, and Physics

Committee meetings are scheduled in April and May with smaller writing and editing groups working between meetings. In particular they will be editing and rearranging benchmarks based on suggestions from the feedback with a concern for achieving greater consistency.

The final draft should be available in late May, which people can start using for planning. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will begin conversations with the Board for Professional Educator Standards and Licensing (PELSB) concerning adaptations in licenses and standards to support the final standards. MDE plans to develop resources for instruction, professional development, and district implementation.

The standards become law through the state’s rulemaking process. During that process, the date is set for the full implementation of the standards and the new version of the MCA exam. This time period is likely to be in the range of four or five years. Hence there could be time for one or two years of planning and professional development before schools might start phasing-in changes of instruction to reflect the new standards. We plan to develop resources for instruction, professional development, and district implementation.

This summer the MDE assessment division will start the first steps toward designing the new MCA exam to reflect the new standards. They will train a group of teachers to be writers of test items to assess the three dimensions included in the new standards. That information will also be valuable for designing classroom assessments. Teachers and leaders are also needed to design the test specification. If you are interested in being involved in either activity, contact or

The second draft of the science standards and information about the standards revision process is at the MDE Science webpage. A series of articles on the science standards development is at the Minnesota Science Teachers Association standards page.


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After the first draft of the Science Standards, what are the next steps?

A big step has been completed on the way to new science standards. The first draft of the 2019 Academic Standards in Science was published November 9th and was open for feedback by online and in-person meetings. There were 231 responses to the survey, 73 attendees at the Minn. Dept. of Education Open Houses and 156 participants at MnSTA meetings or sessions at the fall conference. Thank you to everyone who reviewed the draft and put energy into providing thoughtful feedback. This is an important component of the standards development process.

The Standards Review Committee at their December meeting read all the comments and analyzed the patterns in the responses. As expected, there was a wide range of responses. The majority of the responses favored the major organization of having standards based on Science and Engineering Practices and having Benchmarks as three dimensional statements that combine Practices, Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts. The committee affirmed this direction, but wants to make some adjustments for the second draft.

The Review Committee assigned writing teams to look carefully at some of the following items:

  • Improving clarity of statements and potential inclusion of examples
  • Making equity more visible
  • Format of the standards and benchmarks that makes the progression of core ideas (content concepts) easier to track.
  • Assignment of core ideas in elementary grades to provide continuity to current topics whenever possible and yet preserve learning progressions.
  • Addition of chemistry and physics standards to support the graduation requirements.

The second draft will be published February 14th and available for feedback until February 28th. Watch for announcements of feedback meetings and the online survey at . The final draft will be available in May and there will likely be a three or four year period to phase-in the standards and benchmarks.

Additional comment: Many comments about the first draft noted the frequent use of the practice of model development. Some also indicated an incomplete understanding of that practice as it is being used in the standards draft. I suggest that you look at this quick video, introduction to model development by Paul Anderson of Montana, who was a keynote presenter at one of our recent MnSTA conferences, and this NSTA Article on Modeling

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Standards Review Progress: What is happening with the science standards review?

The science standards review is off and running. The review committee of 36 representing various stakeholders started with a three-day retreat in early August. They shared their vision for science learning, delved into research about science education, compared our current standards to other states, and determined desired attributes for the next standards.


The committee has already identified a few issues that will require attention:

  • How standards should be sequenced for a continuous progression of learning in both elementary and middle school
  • How to affirm cultural contributions and equity without tokenism
  • How to have standards reflect the research in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, the committee’s primary research document
  • How to have standards support the variety of school and teacher contexts, along with graduation requirements and college/career readiness


In September they looked at data on our current standards and their implementation using information from an online feedback survey in August. They will started to organize to write the first draft by early November.


During October the determined the starting point and organization of the first draft and smaller writing teams started to write standards and benchmarks. The first draft will be published Nov. 8 in time for the MnSTA conference and will be posted on the MDE Science page. The draft will have major changes from the current standards. Several ideas will intentionally be tried out to get reactions from teachers and other stakeholder.


Feedback for the first draft will be collected through sessions at the MnSTA conference, at town hall meetings across the state, regional meetings hosted by MnSTA regional directors, and an online survey. Those dates are later in this newsletter. There will be a second draft in February and the final draft in May.


I hope that you will add your ideas for making the standards effective for student learning during the ten year span of the next standards. Go to the MDE Science page for more information about the committee membership, process, timeline and especially the Assumptions that are guiding the standards review and revision.

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How can I use my summer to get ready for upcoming science standards?

Summer is a great time to think beyond the daily preparation of lessons and gain some perspective on the longer term future. With new science standards coming next spring, the vacation period is a good opportunity to reflect on the changes in science instruction that are likely occur.


First, some news. The science standards review committee has been chosen. You can see the list of names and affiliations at the MDE Science page (look at the bottom of the page). About 200 people submitted applications, hence it was difficult narrow the list down to 37. The committee must represent a variety of stakeholders with consideration for content expertise, large and small schools, geographic distribution, community representation, scientists, ethnic diversity, and experience with ELL, special education, and advanced placement


The committee will begin their work August 1 with a three day workshop and then meet monthly through the year. Writing teams of content areas and grade levels will work between meetings to draft standards language.


The work of the committee is guided by a set of Assumptions that members of the committee agreed to with their application. One significant assumption is:

The standards will be informed by A Framework for K-12 Science Education and include the dimensions of the scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas.


This document from the National Research Council was the research base for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However several Minnesota Statutes make it impossible for us to adopt NGSS as written, including the requirement for standards and benchmarks. The whole list of assumptions are at the MDE Science page.


It would be good to use the summer months to become familiar with the Framework. It explains the dimensions that are described in the Assumptions. You can get a free download of A Framework for K-12 Science Education at A good overview of the Framework is in the articles I wrote earlier about the standards process at the MnSTA Standards site.


Many great resource about the Framework (and NGSS) are available at

         books and journal articles

         NGSS hub for many resources, including videos

         – search for NGSS videos

         – especially look at the appendices and the resources


This would be a good year for a membership in NSTA, which provides access to the many great resources, and the nation convention in St. Louis next spring.

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How can I influence the next science standards?

The beginning stages of the review and possible revision of the Minnesota science standards are starting now and the process will continue through the next school year. With the importance of these standards for the future of science teaching and learning, you maybe be wondering how you may be able to influence the standards. An overview of the standards development process was outlined in an article in the MnSTA newsletter in December 2016. That article is archived at the MnSTA Science Standards page along with articles about ideas that will likely be included in potential standards. Here are some specific ways you can be involved.


Who will be on the Standards Review Committee and what is the time commitment?


Most of the work of reviewing the current standards and making any revision is conducted by the Science Standards Review Committee. The members of this committee will include teachers, administrators, professors, scientists, business people and community members. They will represent geographic distribution and racial diversity. The application to be on the committee should be available March 26 and due April 13 at the MDE Science page. In addition to considering your participation, you should encourage others, especially scientists and community members who understand the skills and knowledge needed for future careers of our students

The tentative plans call for the committee to have monthly full-day meetings in Roseville from August until April. There will likely be a three day initial meeting in August. Depending on funding, there will be coverage for substitute and travel/lodging expenses for those outside the metropolitan area. Committee members must commit to participation in all committee meetings. There will be additional online meetings of technical writing teams between meetings. So you should expect to have a commitment of 12 days of whole committee meetings plus additional reading, writing and online discussions.

The committee will be guided by a set of assumptions that define the format, requirements and foundational documents that will guide the committee work and the standards document. These assumptions and the timeline will be posted with the application documents.


How can I contribute my ideas if I am not on the committee?


The committee will develop three drafts of the standards and there will be several opportunities for your input and feedback:

  • Feedback on the implementation of current standards: During the 2016-17 school year science staff from MDE visited regional gatherings of MnSTA member to discuss the standards development and gather input. The participants completed an online survey on how well the current standard are being implemented in schools. If you did not get a chance to participate, please complete this survey.
  • Online feedback about the current standards: This spring you will be invited to comment on general aspects of the standards and specific standards and benchmarks.
  • Feedback on the first draft: This draft is likely to be available in early November in time for the MnSTA conference. In addition to an online survey, there will be town hall meetings in regional locations across the state. These input opportunities will have a significant impact on the direction of the standards.
  • Feedback on the second draft: The second draft will be sent to a couple national science education leaders for expert review. In addition there will be will be online feedback and focus group meetings concerning specific aspect of the standards, such as equity, environmental education, and career focus.

The final draft should be published by May so that schools can start using them for planning and curriculum work. Full implementation along with the revisions of the MCA should be scheduled for three or four years later.

If you have questions about any aspects of the standards review process, contact John Olson, ( Science Content Specialist.


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What new ideas about science assessment might support our next science standards?

(This series of articles in preparation for the science standards review in 2018-19 is archived at

In previous articles I have described how research on science learning collected in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (Framework) might influence our next Minnesota science standards. Many of its ideas for instruction are great supports for our current Minnesota standards and the assessments that support instruction and learning. So it is wise for teachers to start studying the assessment practices that have been developed by various organizations, which are based on the Framework ideas.

First, a quick aside: You may have expected that this article might focus on changes to the MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment), so let me comment on that briefly. When the next Minnesota science standards are published in their final draft form in spring 2019, the Mn Department of Education (MDE) assessment division will start the process of preparing the MCA IV to assess the new standards. This assessment will likely begin in the spring of 2022.

Most states that have recently adopted new standards are based on the Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas from the Framework. If those “dimensions” are the basis of the next Minnesota Standards, the MCA will likely contain items that reflect the integration of these dimensions.

Several organizations are developing tasks that integrate the three dimensions in formative assessments within classroom instruction and summative assessments, such as common assessments. Several great resource for formative assessment are included in the STEM Teaching Tools, which are two-page research briefs with links to supporting documents and activity guides. A few that are helpful for designing formative assessments are:

On a larger scale, Achieve, Inc. had teachers write Classroom Sample Tasks for middle and high school blend content, practices and concepts from science, math and English/Language Arts. For example, a middle school assessment task on antibiotic resistance assesses content related to genetics, natural selection, probability, graphing, constructing arguments and literary research. These tasks have extensive documentation. They are posted at

MDE science staff are working with our colleagues from several other states to develop professional development resources related to three-dimensional science formative assessment that we will start to share with district leaders and at conferences.


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What new ideas about science instruction might guide our next science standards?

How might “argumentation, model development, phenomena and computational thinking” enter our teaching strategies?


This is the fourth in a series of articles providing background for the review of Minnesota’s science standards in 2018-19. The previous articles are archived at the Minn. Dept. of Education page on the MnSTA Website.


When the Minnesota Science Standards Review Committee meets in 2018-19, they will first look at feedback about our current 2009 standards and then look at current research on science education. Research over the past dozen years has provide several new ideas about science instruction that are summarized in a document that was written to lay the foundation for science standards.


A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) was prepared by the National Research Council using leaders in science content, learning sciences and science instruction. This document provided the foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and all the state standards that have been adopted within the last three years. The Framework is a free download at the link above. Here are some major ideas about instruction in the Framework.


Science learning and instruction should weave together “Three Dimensions”


The Framework describes a limited number of elements that should be developed across grades K-12. They are organized into three dimensions 1) scientific and engineering practices, 2) crosscutting concepts, and 3) disciplinary core ideas. In our current Minnesota science standards, many of the ideas in dimensions 1 and 2 are in the Nature of Science and Engineering strand and the ideas in dimension 3 are similar to our content strands. However the emphasis of the Framework is that the three dimensions should be woven together in all science instruction. We find that much of the science instruction in Minnesota schools is weak in integrating these ideas throughout science instruction. Let’s dive deeper into the three dimensions.


  • Dimension 1 Scientific and Engineering Practices


This dimension focuses on important practices used by scientists and engineers and for which students should develop proficiency:

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

The practices in blue are well-represented in our current Minnesota science standards and are generally part of our use of “inquiry” and “engineering design.” The items in red have some overlap with the Literacy Standards in Science that are in the Minnesota English/Language Arts standards, although the Framework has some additional concepts. The items in green have somewhat different approaches that we have traditionally used in our science instruction. A good description of how several of these practices can play out in the classroom is the short, free, teacher-friendly book Ready, Set, Science! This link Has a video that demonstrates a couple of the practices in action.


  • Dimension 2: Crosscutting Concepts


These concepts cut across all areas of science and engineering and help students develop a coherent scientific view of the world.

  1. Patterns
  2. Cause and effect: mechanism and explanation
  3. Scale, proportion, and quantity
  4. Systems and system models
  5. Energy and matter: flows, cycles, and conservation
  6. Structure and function
  7. Stability and change

These concepts should be reinforced by repeated use in instruction across the disciplines.


  • Dimension 3: Disciplinary Core Ideas


These are the major concepts that we in Minnesota often call content standards. They are organized into familiar groupings: 1) Physical Sciences, 2) Life Sciences, 3) Earth and Space Sciences, and 4) Engineering, Technology and the Applications of Science. The Framework selected core ideas that are key organizing concepts in a discipline, have broad importance across disciplines and relate to interests and life experiences of students. Hence many ideas in Minnesota standards are not in the Framework and the Framework core ideas are often assigned to earlier grades than in Minnesota.


Bringing the dimensions together in instruction


The Framework provides learning progressions for each of the ideas in the three dimensions. For example, for the practice of argumentation (7) in early grades student learn to link claims with evidence, in middle grades they focus on the reasoning to support or refute explanations, and in upper grades they construct counter-arguments using data analysis.


Many instructional models can be used in helping students learn in a three-dimensional style. One model gaining interest is to plan a series of phenomena that students explore and then develop explanations. As they move from one phenomena to the next their mental models of what is occurring in nature gains in sophistication. A good resource for examining many facets of instruction are the STEM Teaching Tools Practice Briefs.


The Next Generation Science Standards has prepared a model of standards (called performance expectations) that bring together the three dimensions. While the format does not meet the Minnesota statutes that require standards and benchmarks, the ideas and structure from the NGSS will be examined by the Science Standards Review Committee.


Look for sessions on the standards revision process and teaching practices at the MnSTA Conference on Science Education in St. Cloud Nov. 10. For questions, contact


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What new ideas about science learning might guide our next science standards?


This is the third in a series of articles providing background for the review of Minnesota’s science standards in 2018-19. The previous articles are archived at the Minn. Dept. of Education page on the MnSTA Website.


When the Minnesota Science Standards Review Committee meets in 2018-19, they will first look at feedback about our current 2009 standards and then look at current research on science learning and science standards before starting on any revisions. Research over the past dozen years has provide several new ideas about science learning that were summarized in a document that was written to lay the foundation for national science standards.


A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) was prepared by the National Research Council using leaders in science content, learning sciences and science instruction. This document provided the foundation for nearly all the states that have adopted new standards the last three years and the Next Generation Science Standards. Here are some of it’s major findings about student learning.


Children are born investigators

Children starting school are surprisingly competent. They already have substantial knowledge of the world. They are not concrete and simplistic thinkers and can use a wide range of reasoning processes that form scientific thinking. It is important to build on and refine prior concepts to develop increasingly more sophisticated explanations of natural phenomena.


Focusing on core ideas and Practices

There should be a focus on a limited set of core ideas and an avoidance of a coverage of multiple disconnected topics. The core ideas provide structure for adding new understandings over time.


Understanding develops over time

Learning difficult ideas takes time and often comes together as students work on a sequence of tasks that encourage them to synthesize ideas. We should focus on important core ideas and develop learning sequences (called learning progressions) that build the learning from simple ideas to more broad explanations over several years.


Science and engineering require both knowledge and skills

Science is both a body of knowledge about the world and the set of practices that develop that knowledge. Scientists and engineers use a variety of methods and sequences in their work. Our students should develop practices that include investigating, designing solutions, analyzing evidence and constructing arguments.


Connecting to students’ interests and experiences

A rich science education captures the students’ curiosity about the world and their interest in learning science. Instruction should be relevant to their daily lives and also prepare them for later education and careers.


Promoting Equity

Students must have equitable access to quality instruction, materials, time for learning and teachers. Instruction should recognize the diverse customs and orientations of different cultural communities as an asset for science learning and should value multiple modes of expression.


I recommend studying the Framework and starting to use its ideas as supports for improving instruction for our current Minnesota science standards and as a preparation for possible changes in the standards in 2019. The Framework and several reports on which it was based are available as free downloads at I also recommend How Students Learn Science in the Classroom (2005) and Taking Science to School (2007) from the same site for a deeper look at ideas about science learning.


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What are science teachers saying about our current science standards?


During the 2015-16 school year, MnSTA held regional meetings where teachers came together to give feedback about the current (2009) Minnesota science standards. Minn. Dept. of Education science staff (John Olson, Doug Paulson, Jim Wood and Dawn Cameron) facilitated at least 10 sessions. The 525 participants completed an online survey in which they gave their impressions of how the current science standards are being implemented.


If did not attend one of the meetings, we invite you to complete the survey. Now would be a good time to take 10 minutes to complete the survey at this link before reading the rest of the article.


As we look at the data from the survey we must realize that the responses are from teachers that chose to come to a regional meeting of science teachers. They are probably not representative of the whole science teaching population, but they are valuable for comparison purposes. A section of the survey asks the participants to state the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with a statement. Notice that the participants are giving their perception of what other teachers are doing.



It is encouraging to see that the participants perceive that possibly 90% of teachers are paying close attention to content standards (physical science, life science and earth/space science). However only about 60% pay close attention to the Nature of Science and Engineering standards (NSE). The writers of the 2009 science standards intended that the NSE strand should be of equal importance to the content strands. In the discussions among teachers about factors that influence that practice, they mention that textbooks often emphasize the content concepts and knowledge. NSE concepts are often difficult to assess, especially in written tests, and hence are not as prominent on the MCA.


The standards writers also intended that the Nature of Science and Engineering standards should be integrated with instruction in the content areas. The survey indicates that possibly less than half of teachers are implementing this practice. The participants cited the structure of textbooks that often have an initial chapter on science methods, and traditional teaching practices that do not integrate inquiry and engineering design into content instruction.


Another area of interest is the perception that about three-fourths of teachers are aware of the learning by their students before and after their grade. This is especially important with the gaps between grades for concepts in our standards. For example after astronomy is taught in third grade it does not reappear until 8th grade.


There were many other questions in the survey and the small group discussions at the meetings. This data will be disaggregated and given to the committee that will review the science standards in 2018-19 and make recommendations for the next set of standards. Encourage your colleagues to participate in the survey and feel free to send your comments and questions to me.

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When will we get new science standards? Will we adopt national standards?

Many people are asking these questions to us at the Department of Education (MDE) and the answer is often different than what is expected. Even though Minnesota was a lead state for the writing of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), it is not a given that we will adopt those standards. There is a process for revising standards that is directed by state statutes. Here is an of overview of how Minnesota will revise science standards.


Why Standards?

Content Standards are foremost a means to provide equitable education. They provide the learning goals for all students so that children across the state and student population have the opportunity to achieve a solid education. This is important for the high mobility of students as they move between schools. The standards provide an coherent progression of learning as students advance through the grades. This is especially important in science where new concepts and skills must build on previous learning.



Minnesota Statute 120B.021 sets the process and schedule for standards review. The science standards will be reviewed during the 2018-19 school year. This is a change that the legislature made last year from the previous schedule of 2017-18 in order to accommodate the writing of health and physical education standards this year.


What are the requirements for standards?

The standards must be formatted with standards that proved broad ideas and benchmarks that specify indicators of learning at each grade K-8 and the band of 9-12. They must include contributions of Native American communities and reflect standards on information technology.


How will they be chosen?

  • A Review Committee of 20-40 people representing a variety of stakeholders will be formed through an application process.
  • The Committee will receive input through on-line surveys, town meetings, focus groups and expert reviewers.
  • The Committee will study current research on effective science education and will evaluate current models for science standards.
  • The recommendations of the Committee will go to the Commissioner of Education. They could recommend to keep the current standards, make revisions or adopt another set of standards.
  • The Department of Education will publish the “final draft” of the standards probably in spring 2019. This will be usable by schools to start planning for implementation and for MDE to begin writing the next version of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA). Full implementation of the standards will likely be three to four years later.
  • The standards become law through Minnesota’s Rulemaking process. They do not go to the legislature for approval.

More details of the standards review process are available at the MDE Standards Page.

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