Administrator’s Corner: Assessing accountability assessments

Published 5:54 pm Friday, February 22, 2019

Administrator’s Corner by Kathy Niebuhr

Kathy Niebuhr


Instruction in all Minnesota public schools is driven by a large set of academic standards in each curricular area. Although the standards are adopted at the state level, each school district maintains the control of determining how they will instruct and meet those standards in their local schools.

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One way the Minnesota Department of Education then measures those local efforts of instruction is through statewide accountability testing. In the spring of each school year, all public schools in Minnesota are to engage in the process of accountability testing. You may be familiar with these tests known as Minnesota comprehensive assessments or MCAs; the Minnesota test of academic skills (MTAS), an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities; or the ACCESS tests for English language learners measuring English language proficiency.

The intent of testing is that these “statewide tests are annual, summative measurements of student achievement that are used, along with many other school and classroom assessments, to evaluate student learning and skills. Specifically, the Minnesota statewide tests assess achievement of the Minnesota academic standards in mathematics, reading, and science and language proficiency development for English learners. Schools use objective, standardized assessments to validly measure students’ learning against benchmarks of academic achievement. The Minnesota statewide tests function as one part of a comprehensive system for evaluating student learning,” according to the  Minnesota Department of Education website.

District 241 has begun the ACCESS testing and will move to the MCA/MTAS testing after spring break. Most of our testing is done online on our student Chromebooks, which allows us to take substantially less time testing than in years’ past — when we had to make arrangements and schedules to test in shared computer labs. Students in grades three through eight, 10 and 11 will receive information about the testing from their schools and teachers. In addition, information about testing can be found on the Albert Lea Area Schools website or at the shortened web address If you have specific questions about your student’s testing experience, parents/guardians can start by talking with their teacher and/or building principal. 

Kathy Niebuhr is the executive director of administrative services and district assessment coordinator for Albert Lea Area Schools.