Adjust Instruction


We interpret and respond to student work for a variety of purposes and situations in the classroom. Sometimes, we provide feedback quickly about next steps in learning during learning in the classroom. Other times, we need to review student work products more carefully in order to provide meaningful feedback that students can apply to improve their future work. What’s more, we may quickly score work, like homework tasks, primarily to make sure students completed it and are on the right track, or we may need to provide more carefully considered grades to sum up a student’s achievement over a period of learning on a classroom summative assessment. These different scenarios require different analysis tools and approaches. The resources below focus on some foundational considerations to ensure that anytime we are making sense of evidence provided by students, we are doing so in ways that promote learning and foster equity.

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Rubrics are useful for many different types of evidence of student learning, particularly those best suited to measure higher-order thinking skills like performance tasks, final projects, reports, or essays. They allow you to focus on specific aspects of student evidence and support consistency in analysis across student work samples.

Many rubrics organize the analysis of student work using a deficit-based approach, focusing on, and signaling to students, what they cannot do. In contrast, a strengths-based approach to rubrics focuses on what students can do and supports partnering with students to identify new goals. This approach is grounded in the understanding that all students learn at different paces and in different ways, but all students can improve and learn. Strengths-based rubrics can be used to validly assess standards-based learning and provide feedback to students that can help them meet the expectations described in the grade-level standards.

  • A Strengths-Based Approach to Assessment Rubrics - Read this article from the Leadership for Educational Achievement Foundation (LEAF) Inc., which compares deficit-based and strength-based rubrics and provides practical suggestions for using rubrics that focus on what students can do and provide opportunities to build on those strengths. As you read, reflect on the range of rubrics you currently use in your classroom.
  • Rubric calibration protocol - Review this rubric calibration protocol and reflect on how a protocol like this could help you and your colleagues use rubrics more consistently.


Interpreting and Responding to Student Work

Watch the narrated presentation about bringing an equity- and learning-focused mindset to the analysis of student work, then read the handout and respond to the reflection questions. As you watch, reflect on your current practice of student work analysis and consider whether there are any areas in which you might like to grow.

Using MCA Data 

The Minnesota Questions Tool (MQT) is an online resource that can assist educators in learning more about the types of questions students experience when taking the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA). This tool allows you to search through released MCA items to gain better understanding of the different item types and ways evidence of student learning is gathered by the MCA.

  • Using the Minnesota Questions Tool - Read this short article to learn more about the MQT and how it can help to inform your instructional decision-making.
  • MQT Protocol Worksheet - Use this worksheet to help you as you navigate through the MQT to consider ways the MQT can help inform instructional decisions in your classroom.

Teachers can request a Benchmark Report from their district’s assessment coordinator that provides information about student performance on the MCA at the benchmark level within the grade-level standards. The Minnesota Academic Standards are divided into one or more benchmarks that provide more specific details about the academic knowledge and skills that students are taught from the standards themselves. Data from the Benchmark Report help teachers understand how well students in their school or district performed on the strands, substrands, and benchmarks within the MCA.

  • MCA Benchmark Report - This article explains how Benchmark Reports can assist you in understanding your school’s performance and how to use these summative assessment data appropriately.