MSU K-12 research center receives $13.6 million assessment

Logo for Mississippi State's Research and Curriculum Unit

Contact: Emile Creel

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State is beginning the next phase of ongoing career and technical education assessments for the state’s public schools.  

A 10-year, $13.6 million Mississippi Department of Education contract with the specialized university group went into effect July 1. In addition to continuing many services provided in previous contracts, the new award expands K-12 standard-setting, research and teacher support, among other services.

While the RCU has been developing the scientific evaluations for more than two decades, “this contract aligns CTE assessment more closely to academic testing,” said Sean Owen, the project’s principal investigator.

With an ultimate goal “to improve teacher quality through assessment,” the MSU team has worked continually “to facilitate instructional modification and offer more than an arbitrary score,” the associate research professor added.

Formally titled Mississippi Career Planning and Assessment System, Edition Three, the 2017 contract with MDE is designed to advance the work of previous contracts by introducing more proficiency levels and conducting additional analyses to demonstrate the alignment of assessments with curricula.

The agreement also enables the RCU to offer additional practice tests in each CTE pathway and increased data access for teachers, so they may strategically employ it in classroom settings.

“Mississippi has one of the best CTE testing systems in the nation,” Owen said. “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.”

Differing assessments allow public school students to show proficiency levels in standardized, multiple-choice tests or by completing a set of career-related tasks. Many also elect to earn certifications that add to their resumes, Owen said.

Additionally, the new contract calls for the RCU to:

—Provide both the state department and local school districts with detailed demographic statistics. By reporting the subgroup data, districts can identify students in achievement gaps and begin to focus lesson modifications to close those gaps and improve performance;

—Give special focus on how best to effectively present data to teachers; and

—Identify excelling classroom leaders, so they may train peers during periodic conferences and individual mentorings of new colleagues.

Mike Mulvihill, MDE’s director of career and technical education, said his agency appreciates the RCU’s continuing production of quality assessments.

“I look forward to working with them to build on the positives from previous work to support students and teachers,” Mulvihill said.

For more information on the RCU, visit; on its assessment work,

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