Statewide Testing Information

The Assessment division provides test specifications for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) in mathematics, reading, and science as well as other state tests. Test specifications are specific rules and characteristics that guide the development of a test's content and format. They indicate which strands, sub-strands, standards and benchmarks will be assessed on the test and in what proportions. Test specifications are excellent tools for gaining an in-depth understanding of the content and format of the tests.

The Minnesota Assessments have 3 direct purposes:

  1. To measure each student / grade level's achievements towards meeting the Minnesota Academic Standards,
  2. To measure academic progress of students over time, and
  3. To provide Minnesota graduates information related to career and college readiness.
ESEA and Minnesota Statutes 120B.30 require that all public school students be assessed annually in reading, mathematics, and science. While changes to accountability calculations based on ESSA are still to be determined, there is no change in the administration of the assessments. · Students enrolled in grades 3-8 and 10 must take a reading test. · Students enrolled in grades 3-8 and 11 must take a mathematics test. · Students enrolled in grades 5 and 8 must take a science test. High school students also must take the science test; it is taken when they complete their instruction in life science (usually in a biology course) in grades 9-12. See the next section for additional guidance. Most students take the MCA, but students who receive special education services and meet the MTAS eligibility criteria may take the MTAS.

The standards-based accountability assessments are aligned to the Minnesota Academic Standards and the primary purpose of the assessments is to measure achievement on these standards. As academic standards are revised, a new series of assessments is developed to align with those standards. In MDE's official documents and test data, the series number is added—at least in the initial reference—to indicate the academic content standards that are being measured (e.g., MCA-III to designate the mathematics academic standards adopted in 2007).


Minnesota Assessments require the highest level of test security. As a result of national attention on the integrity of test results, the United States Department of Education's (USDE) emphasis on security, and recommendations by Minnesota's National Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and Test Policies and Procedures Committee (TPPC), MDE continues to review and update policies and procedures as needed to maintain a fair and valid assessment system. MDE's policies around test security are applicable to all statewide assessments and, generally speaking, are best practice. Test security refers to policies and procedures designed to protect test content and ensure the integrity of test scores. Keeping test content secure and following test security procedures is how the integrity of the test scores that students receive is ensured.

Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, MDE will be partnering with districts to improve test security and test score integrity though voluntary site visits at the district and/or a specific school. These visits will include working with district staff and administration to implement the highest level of test security procedures, provide on-site test security resources and guidance.

Contact: Melanie M. Nelson