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SBE approves ACT WorkKeys as measure of career readiness

Press release from the Mississippi Department of Education

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Board of Education voted Thursday to open public comment on the addition of the ACT WorkKeys assessment, in conjunction with a recognized career pathway or industry certification, to the accountability measure evaluating how schools and districts prepare students for college and the workforce.

ACT WorkKeys, a national assessment that measures foundational skills required for success in the workplace, will be included in the college and career readiness indicator in the state’s accountability system that assigns letter grades to schools and districts. Previously, student performance at the national benchmarks in math and reading or English on the ACT was the sole indicator of college and career readiness. The additional career preparation measure recognizes students who score at the Silver performance level on ACT WorkKeys and earn an industry certification in a technical field or complete a career pathway in high school.

“We have always said we would periodically evaluate the accountability system for improvements. We believe that by adding WorkKeys with an industry certification or pathway, we better prepare students who want to directly enter the workforce with the skills and knowledge to succeed and to earn a livable wage,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

The Accountability Task Force (ATF) began looking at the inclusion of ACT WorkKeys in the accountability system in March 2020. Although it considered many options, the ATF recommended adding ACT Work Keys as an alternative to ACT at the Silver level with no requirement for completion of a career pathway or industry certification.

The Commission on School Accreditation on Dec. 10 approved unanimously a proposal from the Mississippi Department of Education to require a WorkKeys Silver level student performance and completion of an industry certification or pathway to ensure comparable rigor between ACT and ACT WorkKeys in the accountability model. The proposal was based on feedback from the ATF, discussion within the MDE, and in consultation with the Center for Assessment and the MDE’s Technical Advisory Committee.

Details of the proposed change to the accountability model can be found on the SBE Agenda. The public comment period will close at 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 14 and will be submitted to the SBE on Thursday, Jan. 21.

Comments should be submitted to Alan Burrow at accreditation@mdek12.org.