Workforce Development; Education


Philip Gunn


2022 Session

Approved by the Governor

House Bill 1388, also known as the Comprehensive Career and Technical Education Reform Act, would enact a number of measures intended to promote the career and technical education (CTE) pathway as a viable option for students in Mississippi public schools. These measures include implementing a pilot program for career coaching, expanding use of the expert citizen license, and including a career-readiness assessment as part of Mississippi’s standardized testing program and statewide accountability system.

Standardized testing and statewide accountability

Under HB 1388, criteria for Mississippi’s statewide accountability system (which assigns letter grades to individual school districts based on performance) would be expanded to include student performance on a career-readiness assessment. HB 1388 names the ACT WorkKeys Assessment—which, according to the ACT website, measures “foundational skills required for success in the workplace”—as an example of such an assessment, but leaves selection up to MDE. The career-readiness assessment selected by MDE would be included in Mississippi’s uniform statewide testing program, and would be available to students in grades 10-12 on a voluntary basis. 

Inclusion of a career-readiness assessment would be a substantial change to Mississippi’s statewide accountability system and uniform statewide testing program. However, in contrast to similar bills in previous years (none of which passed), there are some open questions related to the nature and extent of this change. These questions include:

  • To what extent would student performance on a career-readiness assessment be weighted in the statewide accountability system?
  • Would the weight of a career-readiness assessment in the statewide accountability system vary for individual districts based on student participation?
  • To what extent would districts encourage participation in the career-readiness assessment? How might this encouragement look?

Teacher licensure

HB 1388 would make the existing “Expert Citizen” teaching license—a special license intended to encourage “local business or other professional personnel” to teach specialized or technical courses at the K-12 level—a more viable option for would-be educators by easing eligibility and extending expiration dates. Under HB 1388, expert citizen license applicants would not be required to hold an associate or bachelor’s degree, so long as they have “an industry-recognized certification” or at least five years of “relevant experience.” The expert citizen license would also be valid for five years; currently, it is a one-year license. 

There are a few changes to licensure that, although largely unrelated to CTE, are still included in HB 1388. These include a provision to extend license reciprocity to teachers licensed in another country, as well as another provision that requires MDE to grant and renew licenses within 21 days of a completed application (provided that the applicant has met all requirements).

Under HB 1388, MDE would also be required to establish standards for supplemental endorsements that “allow as many options as possible to receive a supplemental endorsement.” These options would include, but not be limited to, “taking additional coursework or earning at least the minimum qualifying score or higher” on the relevant subject assessment. Currently, teachers must take a certain amount of semester hours in the relevant content area to earn a supplemental endorsement. HB 1388 would essentially open a test-based pathway to earning a supplemental endorsement. However, SB 2423 stipulates that the test-based pathway would not apply to certain subject areas. These include, but are not limited to, special education, elementary education, and early/primary education. This may impact the impact of implementing a test-based pathway, particularly if MDE chooses to expand on this list of subject areas. (This provision is also included in Senate Bill 2423.)

CTE pathway coursework

HB 1388 would update the coursework requirements for students pursuing a CTE pathway as well as require school districts to provide notice of available pathways to middle schoolers, including the requirements of these pathways and how to enroll. 

In a departure from the current course units requirements for a CTE pathway, in which a specific number of credits are required for each individual subject (e.g., “At least three (3) mathematics credits, including Algebra I”), HB 1388 simply states that CTE students must complete the 24 course unit requirements for a high school diploma, and then lists course content which the requirements “may include, but [are] not limited to.” In addition to standard academic requirements (English, math, etc.), this list includes technical writing, computer programming, personal finance, advanced technical mathematics, computer science, Earth and space science, “soft skills,” CTE pathway courses, and integrated technology. Of this list, only integrated technology and CTE pathway courses were previously included as requirements.

The list of required course content is followed by a new provision that course content for CTE students “may be tailored to the individual needs of the school district so long as the amendments align with the basic course requirements.” This provision, combined with the “may include, but not be limited to” language preceding the required course content list, makes the requirements for CTE students rather vague and leaves much to the discretion of local school districts. This may make it easier for individual students to graduate via a CTE pathway, though the courses offered in such a pathway (and thus, potentially, the quality of such a pathway) could vary by district.

Other provisions

There are a number of additional provisions related to CTE that are included in HB 1388. These include:

  • A career coaching pilot program to be implemented by the Office of Workforce Development. This program would be intended to support middle schools and high schools in exposing, preparing, and connecting students to “career avenues within and beyond the classroom setting.” 
  • A requirement that MDE work with the Community College Board to “ensure alignment” of CTE courses across K-12 public schools and the community college system.
  • A requirement that the State Workforce Investment Board consult with relevant state agencies to compile a “list of nationally recognized industry certifications for use in the Mississippi statewide accountability system.”
  • A requirement that the Office of Workforce Development work with MDE and the Community College Board to “complete a program inventory and return on investment analysis” of workforce and CTE programs. This is intended to ensure that program offerings “best meet the future needs of MIssissippi business and industry.”

On March 7, the Senate passed an amended HB 1388. Though the House has already passed HB 1388, they must now concur with the Senate-amended version before the bill goes to the Governor’s desk.

3/17/22 Update:
On March 15, the House concurred with HB 1388 as amended by the Senate. The bill now goes to the Governor to be signed into law.

3/28/22 Update:
On March 23, Governor Tate Reeves signed HB 1388 into law.