Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation offers new assessments for career, technical education

Fri, 01/17/2014


Bill Woodard
Achievement & Assessment Institute

LAWRENCE In a time of economic uncertainty for individuals as well as states, it’s reasonable for policymakers, taxpayers and all stakeholders to ask the question, “Are our schools preparing students for what comes next, be it further education or entry into the workforce?” For students focusing on career and technical education programs of study, there now is a new way to help answer that question.

The Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation at the University of Kansas has partnered with three states — Colorado, Kansas and Mississippi — to form the Career Pathways Collaborative. The group has developed a new assessment system designed specifically to measure the degree to which students in career and technical education programs are prepared to meet the challenges of life beyond high school. The Career Pathways Assessment System (cPass) is intended to provide students, high schools, postsecondary institutions and employers with a measure of career readiness.

The first three cPass assessments are available now; the testing window for the 2013-2014 school year runs through April 4.

  • The General Career and Technical Education Assessment evaluates students on academic foundations (English language arts, mathematics and scientific reasoning) as well as skills such as leadership, conflict resolution and communication, which are highly prized by 21st-century employers. This general assessment is appropriate and recommended for all students in a career and technical education program, regardless of their specific career path.
  • The Comprehensive Agriculture Assessment tests students’ knowledge of topics such as agribusiness, plant and animal systems, food products and processing, and environmental science. This assessment is most appropriate for students who are completing a general agricultural program of study or for students who are finishing general requirements before delving deeper into coursework targeting a more specific agriculture-related pathway, such as horticulture or animal husbandry.
  • The Power, Structural and Technical Systems Assessment Module complements the Comprehensive Agriculture Assessment. This module evaluates student knowledge of agricultural mechanics and technical requirements for the design and construction of agricultural buildings. This module is most appropriate for students whose general agriculture program of study includes coursework in agricultural mechanics.

States seeking more information about using these assessments may contact Cameron Clyne at (785) 864-6391 or

In collaborating with its partner states to develop cPass, CETE convened panels of subject-matter experts from a variety of organizations and institutions representing many pathways across the career and technical education spectrum.

Nominated by each state, these experts were recruited from business and industry, postsecondary institutions such as community colleges and trade schools, and high schools with strong career and technical education programs of study. The subject-matter experts defined the knowledge, skills and abilities most crucial and relevant to success in each pathway. Once they identified these core proficiencies, the experts then developed test questions with guidance from testing experts. The test questions, which go beyond traditional multiple-choice questions, are designed to provide students with opportunities to demonstrate how they can apply their knowledge and think critically.

Secondary and postsecondary educators teamed with industry representatives to develop the agricultural assessments,” said Michael Womochil, the Colorado Community College System’s program director for agricultural education program. “From the initial identification of essential knowledge and skills, through the writing process, item analysis and eventual completion of each agriculture assessment, these committees have been diligent in their efforts to ensure that the finished product evaluates the attributes essential for future student success.

“We will use these tools to not only validate student learning but also to enable us to recognize students for postsecondary preparation along with possible industry certifications. The cPass assessments will play a critical role in the future of Colorado Agricultural Education programs.”

The computer-administered assessments utilize recent technological advances to ask questions in more relevant and realistic ways than was previously possible in paper-and-pencil testing formats. For example, rather than merely identifying errors, a student might edit a technical document. Rather than identifying the correct first step from a list, a student might be asked to put all the steps of a multistep process into the correct order.

The cPass assessments offer a new and systematic method for identifying the most-qualified candidates for employment or admission into a postsecondary institution. By providing a way to measure knowledge, skills and abilities within a relevant context, the cPass system allows students to personalize their assessment experience to their career interests and learning and encourages stronger alignment among academic, career and technical education programs in the schools.

"The assessments are rooted in instruction and feature innovative questions," said Scott Smith, director of the Kansas State Department of Education’s Career, Standards and Assessment Services Team. "These assessments will prove invaluable in furthering Gov. Sam Brownback's Career and Technology Act, one goal of which is to increase the number of students earning an industry-recognized credential in key occupations."

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