Success Criteria


Describe what success looks like.

When clear learning goals are paired with success criteria, classroom assessment strategies are powerful tools for monitoring student learning toward grade-level expectations defined in the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards. In addition to setting clear expectations for learning, it is critical to define how you will know if students have successfully met the learning goal(s). Success criteria outline what most students will say, do, make, or write to demonstrate that they have met the lesson learning goal.

Success criteria describes evidence needed to show student learning of grade-level knowledge and skills. 

In collaboration with educators, the Minnesota Department of Education has developed Achievement Level Descriptors and Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors. These descriptors use the knowledge and skills defined in the K-12 Academic standards and benchmarks to describe grade-level student performance observed on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) across four achievement levels.

The resources below can be used by educators to develop more detailed success criteria for classrooms assessments, projects, and tasks.  


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Module 12 Narrated Presentation: Interpreting and Using Evidence

from Minnesota Data and Assessment Literacy (MnDAL) Online Modules Series Strand 3: Formative Assessment

Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors

Benchmark Achievement Level Descriptors: A Tool to Evaluate the Rigor of Instructional Materials

Watch the training module below to learn how to use the Benchmark ALDs to evaluate the rigor of classroom assessments and instructional materials:

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Educators have requested more detailed descriptions of the knowledge, skills, and abilities demonstrated by students across the four achievement levels on the MCA, beyond what the traditional Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs) offer. In response to this, MDE staff collaborated to outline more specific descriptions: Benchmark ALDs for Mathematics and Reading in grades 3–8 and high school. The purpose of the Benchmark ALDs is to:

  • Support educators in implementing equitable instruction for all students aligned to the Minnesota Academic Standards in Reading and Mathematics.
  • Support educators in evaluating the depth and rigor of their curriculum, instruction, and classroom assessments. 

All grades are available for download by grade level below. Educators may find this format useful for lesson and unit planning, as it shows all the benchmarks and the descriptions of student achievement across each achievement level within a grade level.

Grade 3Grade 3
Grade 4Grade 4
Grade 5Grade 5
Grade 6Grade 6
Grade 7Grade 7
Grade 8Grade 8
Grade 10Grade 11



Achievement Level Descriptors 

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The Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs) describe the four levels of achievement specific to grade-level for the Minnesota assessments, based on the standards. Students who achieve the “Meets” and “Exceeds” levels are considered proficient with regard to the knowledge, skills and abilities described in the academic standards.
Developed by panels of Minnesota teachers and content experts, the ALDs were created by focusing on a set of questions in reference to the standards and test specifications. These questions might also be useful to educators in determining performance levels when designing classroom assessments and learning objectives:
  • To what degree do students master each standard at each achievement level?
  • For which knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) is it possible to describe gradations of performance across four levels, and for which KSAs is it not feasible?
  • How, according to the test specifications, are students able to show their mastery of KSAs?
ALDs from the Individual Student Reports for reading, mathematics, science and English learner assessments are provided here:
The ALD Maps contain the same information as the ALDs listed above but are organized in a table format that may be easier for teachers to use. The ALD Maps organize the descriptors horizontally by strands (Mathematics and Science) or standards (Reading) and are helpful for comparing performance across achievement levels. The ALD maps can be helpful in evaluating the rigor and alignment of course curriculum and for developing success criteria for classroom assessments aligned to the standards.
Caution when using ALDs: The level of granularity of standards and benchmarks determines the extent to which they can be described across a continuum of performance levels. It is possible to distinguish four levels of performance in many benchmarks, but in others it is not. For this reason, the KSAs of some benchmarks may only appear at the “Meets” level, and not “exceeds.”
For further information, please read Understanding Achievement Level Descriptors.