Minnesota Student Survey Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS)?

The Minnesota Student Survey (MSS) is one of the longest-running youth surveys in the nation. It is a triennial survey that began in 1989. The survey is an anonymous statewide school-based survey conducted to gain insights into the world of students and their experiences. The next MSS will be administered between January and June 2022 to students in grades five, eight, nine and 11.

Why is the survey important?

The MSS is the primary source of comprehensive data on youth at the state, county and local level in Minnesota and is the only consistent source of statewide data on the health and well-being of youth from smaller population groups, such as racial or ethnic groups. It provides valuable information about issues vital to the health, safety and academic success of young people. The survey results have proven to be a dynamic vehicle in bringing the youth voice into decisions made by youth programs, schools, communities and state agencies.

How is information from the survey results used?

School districts, local public health agencies and community nonprofits use local data to hold community forums and stimulate discussion about the needs of youth, to plan programs and to obtain grant funding. State agencies use the results to monitor trends, to assess the extent of disparities among population groups, to obtain federal and state funding and to assist local communities and schools.

Who administers the MSS?

The survey is a collaboration between local schools and four state agencies: the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health, Human Services and Public Safety. The state agencies develop the survey content, monitor data quality, analyze data and report results. Schools administer the survey to their students.

Who takes the survey?

All schools are invited to participate in the survey. This includes public, nonpublic, charter and tribal schools. It also includes alternative learning centers and juvenile correctional facilities. Fifth-, eighth-, ninth- and 11th-grade students take the survey, but schools may add additional grades, if desired.

Do all schools participate? Do all students take the survey?

The survey is voluntary for school districts and students. School districts have the option to not participate in the survey. Parents can choose not to have their children participate. Students themselves can decide not to take the survey. In every survey administration, at least 81 percent of school districts have participated in the survey.

How many students took the survey in 2019? When is the next survey?

In 2019, more than 170,000 public school students participated in the survey, including 66 percent of fifth-grade students, 68 percent of eighth-grade students, 66 percent of ninth-grade students and 54 percent of 11th-grade students. The next MSS will be administered between January and June 2022.

What questions are included on the survey?

The survey asks students about their activities, opinions, behaviors and experiences. Students respond to questions on school climate, bullying, out-of-school activities, healthy eating, emotional health, substance use and connections with school and family. Questions about sexual behaviors are asked only of high school students. All responses are anonymous.

Are the same questions asked every three years?

Yes and no. Some questions are asked every three years to identify trends in student responses over time. However, as new issues emerge and old issues become less relevant, questions are reviewed for their usefulness. The MSS Research Team carefully examines all survey items every three years and gathers feedback from stakeholders. Since the MSS is already a lengthy survey, new items must have clear rationale and purpose.

How is the survey given?

In 2019, the MSS was administered entirely online. Students could complete the survey on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet (e.g., iPad) or netbook (e.g., Chromebook). The online survey met federal and state accessibility requirements and included a text-to-speech option.

Where can survey results be found? How are data files requested?

State, county and district results for 2013, 2016 and 2019 are available in online interactive reports and downloadable PDF tables.

School-level results (in PDF format) may be available upon request by emailing mde.studentsurvey@state.mn.us.


Contact: Gretchen Hoffman / Theresa Nunamacher