On the 2006 12th-grade economics assessment, students who reported higher levels of parental education outperformed their peers who reported lower levels of parental education.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted its first assessment of economics in 2006. The assessment evaluated 12th-grade students’ understanding of economies and markets, the benefits and costs of economic interaction and interdependence, and choices made because of limited resources in three areas: market, national, and international economics. 1
About 79 percent of 12th-graders performed at or above the Basic level2 on this assessment, and 42 percent performed at or above the Proficient level (indicating solid academic achievement), including 3 percent at the Advanced level (indicating superior performance; see table 15-1). Reported on a scale of 0 to 300, the average score of 12th-graders was set at 150; this score fell within the Basic achievement level (indicating partial mastery of fundamental skills).3
Results from the assessment varied by student characteristics, including parental education and sex. Students who reported higher levels of parental education outperformed those who reported lower levels of parental education. For example, 54 percent of students whose parents were college graduates performed at or above the Proficient level, compared with 17 percent of students whose parents did not finish high school. In addition, males outperformed females on the assessment overall. About 45 percent of male students performed at or above the Proficient level, compared with 38 percent of female students. Student performance in the three content areas also followed the above patterns for parental education and sex (see table 15-2).
Student exposure to economics in the classroom was also highlighted in the assessment. Previous findings show that economic content in the high school curriculum has increased in recent decades: in 2005, some 66 percent of graduates reported that they had taken an economics course, compared with 49 percent in 1982 (NCES 2007-475).4 In the 2006 NAEP assessment, most 12th-graders reported exposure to economics content: 16 percent had taken an advanced economics course,5 and 49 percent had taken general economics. Twenty-three percent indicated that they had taken a business or personal finance course, or a course that combined economics with another subject. Thirteen percent said that they had not had any economics instruction.
1 Market economy—traditionally described as “microeconomics”—covers how individuals, businesses, and institutions make decisions about allocating resources in the marketplace. National economy—traditionally described as “macroeconomics”—encompasses the sum of decisions made by individuals, businesses, and government. International economy concentrates on international trade—that is, how individuals and businesses interact in foreign markets. (back to text)
2 The percentage of students at or above Proficient includes students at the Advanced achievement level. Similarly, the percentage of students at or above Basic includes students at the Basic, those at the Proficient, and those at the Advanced achievement levels. (back to text)
3 The cutoff scores for economics achievement levels were as follows: Basic (123), Proficient (160), and Advanced (208). (back to text)
4 These estimates are taken from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study. (back to text)
5 For example, Advanced Placement economics. (back to text)
Note 1: Commonly Used Variables
Note 4: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
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