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NMSI Blog

Where do high school students stand on economic literacy

Whether learning how financial institutions operate, the impact of globalization, or choosing between competing economic plans, economic literacy is essential for creating an informed and responsible citizenry. So where does the U.S. stand on high school economic literacy?  According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), not bad, but we could be doing better.
 
Beginning in 2006 NAEP began monitoring 12th grade students’ attainment of economic skills and knowledge.  In its report, “The Nation’s Report Card: Economics 2012,” NAEP found that while the average score for 12th grade students did not change very much compared to the 2006 assessment, economics scores did improve among “lower performing student groups.”
 
Key findings include:
•In 2012, male students scored 6 points higher on average than female students, which was not significantly different from the gender gap in 2006.
•White and Asian/Pacific Islander students scored higher than Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native students in both 2006 and 2012.
•Hispanic students scored higher in 2012 than in 2006, while there were no significant changes for other racial/ethnic groups (an 8 point gain from their average score in 2006)
 
The majority of students were at basic or proficient (79%), but 18% of students still fell below basic performance. This would mean that a significant part of the adult population also knows very little about economics.  The primary way to remedy this would be to put more emphasis on the subject in school.  NAEP suggests that using real-world problems and learning opportunities outside of the classroom were a big factor in students’ knowledge and understanding of economic issues.