State collaborates on vocation test

by Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal/NEMS360.com

Mississippi's vocational students will soon take a new test to measure readiness for their chosen career.

The Mississippi Department of Education is collaborating with researchers at the University of Kansas to develop the Career Pathways Assessment System, which will be ready for use by 2014.

The test will be a hybrid of a sit-down computer-based test and will include performance-based tasks related to that student's career path. It is designed to be taken by students near their high school completion to measure whether they are ready for the next step, whether it is postsecondary education, an apprenticeship, a technical school or an entry-level job.

"It will show whether they have the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to move on," said Cameron Clyne, Career Pathways Assessments Specialist at the University of Kansas.

The university's Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation began working on the project with the Kansas State Department of Education. Seeing a need to develop an assessment test to measure the preparedness of vocational students, the Kansas education department invited other states to join its collaboration, said Neal Kingston, director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at KU.

"Part of what got states excited about this was that it was going to involve the real skills required to succeed in different kinds of careers," Kingston said.

Mississippi is the first state to join, Kingston said, adding that Colorado and Michigan will likely come on board soon and others have expressed interest.

"The state of Mississippi is excited about the possibilities that this collaborative offers," Mike Mulvihill, bureau director of the Mississippi Department of Education, said in a press release. "With the global economy demanding more of today's worker, it is vital that we be able to assess our student's ability to perform and compete in today's more complex business and industries."

Initially it will be planned for nine pathways, but as additional states join the collaborative, up to 31 additional pathways may be developed.

Initial pathways include: General Agriculture, Animal Systems, Plant Systems, Manufacturing Production, Manufacturing Maintenance, General Business, Finance, Marketing and Education/Training.