MCA Content Resources

 

The MCA measures a snapshot of student learning of the academic standards.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA), is a criterion-referenced assessment, which means it measures learning of a pre-determined set of criteria: the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards. The MCA is used to evaluate equitable implementation of the standards in schools and districts across the state.

The best preparation for students taking the MCA is rigorous classroom instruction aligned to the academic standards.

Standards-based instruction includes using classroom assessments that elicit evidence of student learning of grade-level standards and inform instruction.

The resources below support educators in understanding how the academic standards are assessed on the MCA by subject area and grade-level.

 

General Resources 

Test Specifications- 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. However, they are not meant to be used as the basis for curriculum and instruction. Some concepts in the academic standards can only be assessed in the classroom and not on a standardized statewide assessment.

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) - Cognitive complexity refers to the cognitive demand associated with a test question. The level of cognitive demand is dependent upon the number of cognitive processes involved in determining the correct answer to a question. Levels of cognitive complexity for MCA-III are based on Norman L. Webb's Depth of Knowledge levels.

Math Resources

  • Grade Level Assessment Details Table – The table located at the bottom of this page contains abbreviated guides from the Math Test Specifications. Each document is organized by grade and subject, so teachers have quick access to the details most relevant to their work.
  • MCA-III Test Specifications: Mathematics, Grades 3-8, 11 (2007 standards) – Review Committees consisting of members of the Minnesota Academic Standards Committee and classroom teachers worked in collaboration to develop the Mathematics MCA-III Test Specifications.
    • Test specifications are specific rules and characteristics that guide the development of a test's content and format.
    • They indicate which strands, standards and benchmarks will be assessed on the test and in what proportions. In addition, they outline the types of items to be included, number of items and distribution of cognitive levels.
    • Test specifications are excellent tools for gaining an in-depth understanding of the content and format of the tests. However, they are not meant to be used as the basis for curriculum and instruction; the academic standards are.
  • Math Item Samplers – used to familiarize students and educators with how the content is presented in the test. Links to all the item samplers can be found in the table at the bottom of the MCA Test Structure page.
  • Online Calculators – The Academic Standards committee identified several benchmarks across grades 3–8 that students should master without using a calculator. Since the MCA-III are aligned with the Minnesota academic standards, the items assessing benchmarks identified as non-calculator will be assessed within a non-calculator segment of the test.
    • For Grade 11, there are no non-calculator benchmarks. A calculator will be available for student use on all items of the Grade 11 MCA-III.
    • Students may use stand-alone versions of online calculators to practice using the same versions that appear in the online test. These calculators also appear in the item samplers.
  • MCA Formula Sheets - In grades 5–8 and 11 students have access to a formula sheet based on their grade level. These formula sheets also appear in the item samplers.
    • For more information on the philosophy behind the formula sheets please see MCA Formula Sheets (posted on November 30, 2018 by MathBits)
  • MathBits is a monthly publication of articles put out by the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM).
    • Tag: MCA shows all of the MathBits articles written by MDE Math Assessment Specialists on various aspects of the Math MCA. 

Reading Resources

  • Grade Level Assessment Details Table - The table located at the bottom of this page contains abbreviated guides from the Reading Test Specifications. Each document is organized by grade and subject, so teachers have quick access to MCA details most relevant to their work.
  • MCA-III Test Specifications: Reading, Grades 3-8, 10 (2010 standards) - Review Committees consisting of members of the Minnesota Academic Standards Committee and classroom teachers were convened to develop the Reading MCA-III Test Specifications.
    • Test specifications are specific rules and characteristics that guide the development of a test's content and format.
    • They indicate which sub-strands, standards, and benchmarks will be assessed on the test and in what proportions.
    • They outline the types of items to be included, number of items and distribution of cognitive levels.
    • Test specifications are excellent tools for gaining an in-depth understanding of the content and format of the tests. However, they are not meant to be used as the basis for curriculum and instruction. Some concepts in the academic standards can only be assessed in the classroom and cannot be assessed with a standardized test. 
  • Reading Item Samplers - Used to familiarize students and educators with how the content is presented in the test. Links to all the item samplers can be found in the table at the bottom of the MCA Test Structure page

Science Resources

Science MCA- III Resources (Current - Spring 2024)

  • Grade Level Assessment Details Table - The table located below contains abbreviated guides from the MCA-III Test Specifications: Science. Each document is organized by grade and subject, so teachers have quick access to MCA details most relevant to their work.

  • MCA-III Test Specifications: Science - Based on the Minnesota Academic Standards in Science, 2009 version effective May 24, 2010. Review Committees consisting of members of the Minnesota Academic Standards Committee and classroom teachers were convened to develop.
    • The purpose of test specifications is to develop a test that is consistent over time. They also can serve as a source of information about the test design for teachers. However, test specifications do not indicate what should be taught; the Minnesota academic standards do.
    • Test specifications indicate which strands, standards and benchmarks will be assessed on the test and in what proportions.
    • In addition, test specifications provide the types of items to be included, number of items and distribution of cognitive levels.
    • Test specifications also clarify, define and/or limit how test items will be written.
  • Minnesota Frameworks for Science and Mathematics Standards – This website provides instructional resources tied to each standard and provides additional resources. It is part of the STEM Teacher Center developed by SciMathMN and the Minnesota Department of Education.
  • Science Item Samplers - Used to familiarize students and educators with how the content is presented in the test. Links to all the item samplers can be found in the table at the bottom of the MCA Test Structure page.

Science MCA - IV Resources (Beginning Spring 2025)

  • Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment-Series IV (MCA-IV) Draft Test Specifications for Science - Based on the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Science, 2019 version effective July 29, 2019.
    • The Science MCA-IV Test Specifications document provides information on how the 2019 Minnesota K–12 Academic Standards in Science are assessed on a test. The specifications were developed in collaboration with Minnesota science educators during the Science MCA Test Specification Committee and during public review.
    • They delineate specific rules and characteristics that guide the development of the Science MCA-IV content and format, and provide guidelines for writers and MDE’s service provider to support multidimensional question development. The specifications also provide the blueprint for test construction, specifying the number of questions for each score-reporting category.
    • While teachers may use this document to clarify the expectations for the assessment of the science standards, the test specifications are intended for large-scale assessments only, and not to form the basis of curriculum and instruction.
    • For purposes of the Science MCA-IV, test questions will be aligned to the specific practice, core idea, and cross cutting concept as written in the benchmark. Each question on the MCA will be multidimensional, which means that at a minimum, each question will align to the practice and core idea of the benchmark. Where possible, questions will also align to the cross cutting concept of the benchmark. 
  • Science MCA-IV Released Items
  • Guides to Science MCA-IV Released Items - The purpose of these guides is to give Minnesota education professionals examples of phenomenon-based, multidimensional items aligned to the 2019 Minnesota Science Standards. These guides include information on benchmark alignment and student response data, to provide context for the online released items.