RCU Receives $13.6 Million Assessment Contract

For immediate release: August 24, 2017
Contact: Emile Creel

STARKVILLE, Miss.—MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit (RCU) has secured a 10-year, $13.6 million contract with the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) for career and technical education (CTE) assessment.


The Mississippi Career Planning and Assessment System, Edition Three (MS-CPAS3) contract, which went into effect on July 1, includes a continuation of many of the services the RCU has provided in previous contracts for the MDE and will expand on standard setting, research, and teacher support, among other assessment services.


“This contract aligns CTE assessment more closely to academic testing, and my goal with the assessment team is always to facilitate instructional modification and offer more than an arbitrary score,” said Sean Owen, associate research professor for the RCU’s assessment team and MS-CPAS3 principal investigator. “We aim to improve teacher quality through assessment.”


The RCU has been responsible for developing CTE assessments for the MDE for over 20 years, and MS-CPAS3 will advance the work of previous contracts by introducing more proficiency levels and conducting additional analyses to demonstrate the alignment of assessments with curricula.


This contract also allows the RCU to increase teacher support and communication by offering additional practice tests in each CTE pathway and increased data access to teachers so that they can use it strategically in their practice.


“Mississippi has one of the best CTE testing systems in the nation,” said Owen. “Few states offer multiple-choice tests, national certifications, and performance-based testing across all pathways the way the RCU does for Mississippi’s CTE programs.”


The differing assessments allow students to show proficiency levels in standardized, multiple choice tests or by completing a set of career-related tasks, and many students also take advantage of earning certifications to add to their résumés. In addition to the tests, the RCU will provide the MDE and districts with information about demographic-group statistics.


“By reporting the subgroup data, districts can identify students in achievement gaps and begin to focus less on modification to close those gaps and improve performance,” said Owen.


Additionally, research from this contract will focus on how to effectively present data to teachers and how to identify teachers who are excelling so that they can train their peers at state conferences and mentor new colleagues.


“The RCU continues to produce quality assessments for Mississippi’s CTE programs, and I look forward to working with them to build on the positives from previous work to support students and teachers,” said Mike Mulvihill, director of CTE at the MDE.


For more information on the RCU’s assessment work, visit rcu.msstate.edu/Assessment.


The RCU focuses on improving the lives of Mississippians through education by developing curricula and assessments, providing training, and conducting research for K-12 schools. More information can be found online at rcu.msstate.edu.