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Minnesota Educators’ Ultimate Guide to Prepare for MCA Testing

Minnesota Educators’ Ultimate Guide to Prepare for MCA Testing

With testing season comes practice assessments, a dose of stress, and sometimes, conflicting information about academic standards. The good news is that a little research and planning can go a long way toward ensuring that you’re able to support your students to reach their full potential on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA). We’ve gathered helpful, detailed, and relevant resources on MCA testing to help you put a test-preparation program into action. 

MCA Testing Resources from the Minnesota Department of Education

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) offers a wealth of knowledge to Minnesota educators with plenty of resources to sift through when preparing for state testing. Here are a few hand-picked resources we’ve gathered to get you started. 

Academic Standards (K–12)  
Information regarding academic standards for all subjects tested at the state level can be found here, including core subjects, health and physical education, STEM, and world languages. This section also offers self-paced training modules for educators that can be completed in 30 to 45 minutes.

Achievement Level Descriptors
Find Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs) for both the MCA and Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS), as well as ALD maps for mathematics, reading, and science. These ALD maps will help educators compare performance across proficiency levels.  

Released Items and Passage Sets
The MDE offers the ability to view released items previously used on the MCA. The items are shown so that Minnesota educators can better understand how the MCA aligned to the Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards. Select from either math or reading, and filter by grades, item type, DOK level, and more.

Minnesota Report Card
Search for the school or district of your choice, and you’ll be able to view the testing data. This interactive tool was created so that educators, parents, and citizens can be engaged in Minnesota education. Additional types of reports offered include ELL achievement levels, engagement and safety, and staffing profiles.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Get familiarized with the Minnesota state ESSA plan and stay informed with ESSA updates. You can even subscribe to the ESSA updates newsletter to be notified when new changes occur.

Student Resources
Find student resources in this section of the MDE website, including a student tutorial, item samplers, and frequently asked questions.

MCA Test-Prep Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices for Classroom Teachers

MCA prep doesn’t have to dominate your classroom agenda this spring. By getting started early, utilizing formative assessment strategies, and making the most of practice testing, teachers in the classroom can provide students with individualized MCA support without sacrificing time from the standard curriculum (and of course, some fun!).  Check out these resources to get started.

[NWEA MAP Growth Assessments] Answering “What’s Next with Your Data?”
The NWEA™ MAP® Growth™ benchmark assessments are a powerful tool that Minnesota educators can use to gain insight into student progress. Learn how to put your NWEA RIT scores to good use by making scores into actionable data that can help support targeted instruction.

5 Proven Ways to Get the Most Out of Practice Testing
Research on practice testing has generated useful findings that educators can implement when creating their own practice tests, including the benefits of distributive practice testing; identical testing formats used for practice, as well as final tests; and multiple-choice practice tests as the most effective format.

3 Ways Online Practice Can Support Your Test-Prep Program 
As you are considering different options to ensure that your students have achieved standards proficiency, it’s critical that you have a program that’s aligned to the Minnesota K–12 Standards. Consider this and other benefits of using an online program.

4 Best Practices to Use Midyear Benchmark Assessment Data
Like any assessment, midyear benchmarks are only as valuable as the strategies you employ using the data. Here are four ways to make these assessments a truly valuable exercise for you and your students.

Marzano-Validated Best Practices for Online Practice
The Edmentum research team was honored to have Marzano Research peer review a research project that we conducted for our classroom practice and assessment program, Study Island. Through that review, Marzano confirmed our findings about the effectiveness of Study Island, and we also uncovered four best practices to help students get the most out of online practice, including practicing for at least 30 minutes per week on online programs and incorporating online practice in a number of short-burst activities to keep students engaged.

5 Unique Ways to Formatively Assess Your Class
A formative assessment can be fun if you let it! Take a look at five unique ways of assessing student core subject knowledge while still allowing them to have fun and be creative, including journaling, skits, and creating newspaper headlines revolving around the lesson of the day.   

General Test-Prep and Test-Taking Tips for Educators

No matter the exact situation, testing is a stressful process. But successful test taking, beyond content knowledge, is also a skill that can be taught, acquired, and mastered. Here are some of our best resources on general test prep and test taking to help the MCA testing process go smoothly at your school.

10 Classroom and School Tips to Improve Test Scores
Helping students achieve Minnesota test success is about much more than targeted practice in the classroom. Check out these 10 holistic tips to make sure that your students are ready for their assessments in all ways.

8 Last-Minute Steps Districts Can Take to Improve Test Scores
Administrators may not feel like they have a direct hand in making sure that students are well-prepared for the MCA. But, there is no shortage of steps administrators can take to ensure that their teachers and students have what they need for a successful testing season—even when it comes down to the wire.

6 Tips for Teachers to Help Students Manage Stress
Testing season inevitably means classroom stress will hit a new high. So, how can you keep anxiety levels in check and help your students stay cool, calm, and collected when test day rolls around? Here are six tips for a low(er) stress testing season.

8 Tips for Parents to Help Your Child Prepare for High-Stakes Tests
Parents and other caregivers are critical to every students’ education journey. So, get them involved in the MCA-preparation process! Share these eight simple tips with parents to help them support their learners on testing days.

Ready to take your MCA test-preparation program to the next level? Check out Study Island, Edmentum’s online solution for classroom practice and assessment, and our extensive library of programs designed exclusively for Minnesota educators and students. You can even start your FREE trial of Study Island today!

P.S. Did you know that Quality Compensation (Q Comp) districts can use Q Comp carryover dollars to pay for substitutes for teachers to do a data retreat and plan test-prep intervention for students? The data retreat must be for the subject area that teachers have building goals in for Q Comp.

This blog post was originally posted on January 23, 2019.