Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

A Response of High School Teachers to the Adoption of State Economic Standards

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

A Response of High School Teachers to the Adoption of State Economic Standards

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper addresses the recent adoption of economics standards in the state of Indiana. The analysis is based on responses to a survey instrument that was designed to obtain information about the demographic profile of high school economics teachers, their coverage of topic areas included in the economics standards, and the critical challenges they face as high school economics teachers. We find that while virtually all teachers in our sample deviate from the standards, the magnitude of the deviation is small, and occurs in a predictable way. Most teachers appear to spend slightly less time on microeconomics (43.2% versus the mandated 50%) and international economics concepts (9.1% versus the mandated 12%) in favor of additional personal finance topic (19% versus 10%). As a result, the standards appear to be moderately successful in achieving its intended goal of creating convergence in content coverage in high school economics curricula.

INTRODUCTION

Two evident empirical trends in high school economics education are: the higher proportion of high school students who take an economics course and the substantial increase in the number of states that have adopted economics standards for inclusion in the high school curriculum. Between 1961 and 1994, the percent of high school students taking an economics course rose from 16 percent to 44 percent (Walstad, 1992; Walstad and Rebeck, 2000). The number of states that have adopted economics standards either voluntarily or as a result of mandates increased from 38 to 48 between 1997 and 2002 (NCEE, 2003). Moreover, between 1982 and 2002, the number of states that required that some type of economics course be offered in high schools increased from 7 to 17. Notwithstanding these trends, assessments of the performance of students and adults in economic literacy indicate significant deficiencies in knowledge about economic concepts and current issues (Walstad and Soper, 1988). Unsatisfactory results in economic literacy raise many questions including issues surrounding the impact of economics standards on economic literacy.

Assuming that the standards are appropriate, one reason this discrepancy might occur is because high school teachers fail to follow the standards. Due to time constraints, perceived student interest, or other factors, teachers may deviate from the recommended amount of time spent on "core economic concepts", thereby reducing the economic literacy of their students. The Indiana standards, established in 2001, are based on the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) national voluntary economic standards published in 1997. As such, Indiana provides an interesting case study (which may be applicable to other states) to determine whether or not high school teachers are, in fact adhering to these standards.

This paper addresses the recent adoption of economics standards in the state of Indiana. Our maintained hypothesis is that on average, teachers are adhering to the state standards. Analysis of our hypothesis is based on responses to a survey instrument that was designed to obtain information about the demographic profile of high school economics teachers, their coverage of the topic areas included in the economics standards and the critical challenges they face as high school economics teachers. While our study is not intended to provide conclusive evidence about the connection between the adoption of economics standards and student learning outcomes, it does provide a foundation for future research in this area. For example, if we fail to reject the null hypothesis, then the aggregate allocation of time spent on each content area of economics should not impact student literacy (assuming that the standards are appropriate) as teachers are adhering to the standards. As such, future research should investigate how content allocation within each mandated area impacts economic literacy. Alternatively, if we reject our null hypothesis, then future research specifically needs to address the magnitude of the tradeoff between aggregate content coverage and learning outcomes. …

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