Assessment Study Published

Journal Publishes RCU Study on CTE Assessment

February 24, 2021

View the research brief (PDF)

The Asian Association of Open Universities Journal recently published a Research and Curriculum (RCU) study on how formative practices positively impact secondary career and technical (CTE) assessment scores in the periodical’s December edition.

Each year, Mississippi’s CTE students take the Mississippi Career Planning and Assessment System (MS-CPAS) test designed for their course in order to demonstrate growth in learning throughout the course. The RCU, which manages and implements the MS-CPAS and provided assessment and reporting services for the state’s secondary and postsecondary CTE programs for nearly 25 years, analyzed exam results from 28,015 Mississippi students enrolled in more than 50 different secondary CTE courses.

Because of the high stakes surrounding the MS-CPAS for CTE programs, practice tests ― also known as formative assessments ― were put into place to familiarize students and teachers with the process, types of questions and possible material covered on the tests. Practice test results also provide the opportunity for teachers to see where students need review or enrichment.

RCU researchers Ben Alexander, Sean Owen and Cliff Thames were curious as to whether students who take MS-CPAS formative assessments score higher on their final test compared to those who do not take a practice test beforehand. They analyzed data from the MS-CPAS tests administered during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, the first two years the practice exams were available to the state’s CTE centers.

Analysis revealed “participation in one or more CTE practice exams makes a difference,” confirming the research team’s hypothesis that “providing practice tests better prepares students for their MS-CPAS exams and increases learning.” This result demonstrates teachers receive feedback on what aspects of their students’ learning need attention and can adjust their practices accordingly prior to the final, higher stakes test.

Since MS-CPAS tests results are an important representation of the quality of the Mississippi students’ CTE classroom experiences, results of the RCU’s formative assessment study serve as an encouragement to CTE educators to take advantage of the available practice to increase the visibility of their hard work on their students’ final MS-CPAS test scores.

Practice tests are made available to the state’s CTE educators through the RCU. More information on the MS-CPAS and the study can be found at the RCU's website.

About the RCU
Founded in 1965, the RCU contributes to MSU’s mission as a land-grant institution to better the lives of Mississippians with a focus on improving education. In particular, the RCU benefits K-12 and higher education by developing curricula and assessments, providing training and learning opportunities for educators, researching and evaluating programs, supporting and promoting career and technical education, and leading education innovations. For more information about the RCU, visit or follow the organization on Facebook (, Twitter ( and Instagram (