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Pretesting Tool Matches Student Skills With Careers

Career and technical instructors are making use of a platform from YouScience designed to test student aptitudes ahead of job certification exams, potentially guiding them to careers that fit their interests and skills.

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A student uses YouScience to test their aptitudes.
While most K-12 schools rely on basic standardized exams to measure student progress and achievement gaps in core subjects, career and technical (CTE) educators at both secondary and post-secondary levels also use aptitude assessments to gauge skills and tailor instructional methods to them.

To assist CTE instructors in these goals, the ed-tech company YouScience, having merged with test developer Precision Exams last year, has created a digital tool to pretest students for final career certification exams. According to a news release, the goal is to prepare students for over 200 exams needed for high-demand fields such as computer technology, manufacturing and construction.

YouScience Marketing Director Bridget Fowers said the testing platform stands apart from other career development programs by using science-based “brain games” and pretesting, or preliminary tests in advance of further study, to measure aptitude and knowledge. Through such functions, instructors can lead students to new career pathways based on their individual skills, as well as highlight areas that need improvement to succeed in their chosen careers.

“Last year, a big effort of ours was just trying to support our educators in getting the information they need, and we found one of the biggest ways was with certification [pretesting],” she said. “Students can use the learning standards as a study guide, and teachers can use them as an outline for instruction.”

According to a University of Missouri study of 7,222 high school students published last year, student career interests are often limited in scope due to gender norms and other social and cultural influences. The study measured students’ self-reported interests and used YouScience to measure aptitudes in manufacturing, computer technology, construction and technical health care.

When compared to how many students reported interests in these fields, researchers identified seven times more female students with "natural talent" in construction and technical health care, and four times more in manufacturing, despite gender gaps in these industries. The study also indicated equal aptitudes in all four industries.

“What we’ve found is that there are direct ties [between] careers and how people like to approach and solve problems, and so we map a user’s unique talent to thousands of careers nationwide, which allows students to explore how their unique mind can approach careers,” Fowers said. “By exposing them to those careers that they didn’t know existed, they can now explore the pathway you need to get there.”

Fowers said YouScience's user base has grown among technical instructors looking to close achievement gaps during the pandemic, and it's being used in over 5,000 schools and institutions in the U.S. She said it administered more than 500,000 tests last school year and has created over 300,000 “discovery profiles” outlining each student's career skills.

Some technical educators say they’ve successfully used YouScience to accurately pinpoint “learning loss” related to the pandemic, and to help students alter their career paths based on their unique skill sets.

“What YouScience does is it measures what they’re good at and how they think, and then it introduces them to those careers that they don’t know yet, that they have never been exposed to,” Marshall Ruetz, a CTE coordinator at Waukegan High School in Illinois, said in an email to Government Technology.

David Wilson, a computer science teacher at Red Bank High School in Tennessee, said it works well to guide both course instruction and student career exploration.

“From my perspective, YouScience provides a way to encourage kids that specifically plays to their strengths,” he said in an email. “It gives people who are teaching CTE an ability to know the students in front of them.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.