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Business Educators Unveil Draft of Voluntary Student Standards

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Business educators, seeking to insure that students are prepared for the world of commerce, have added their field to the growing list of subject areas with proposed national standards for student learning.

At its annual meeting this month, the National Business Education Association unveiled draft voluntary standards for what students should know and be able to do in business in grades K-12 and through the first two years of college.

"We feel very strongly that all students ought to have some business knowledge and skill as they move through the educational system," said Janet M. Treichel, the executive director of the organization, which represents some 15,000 business educators.

"While we're an elective area, everybody is going to go out and function in business in some way," she said.

Nearly 70 percent of high school students want to launch their own businesses, according to a national Gallup Organization survey of teenagers released last year.

But 85 percent of those students said they were taught little or "practically nothing" about how business works.

The standards address 12 areas of the business curriculum, ranging from computation to entrepreneurship.

Under each standard, a set of competencies describes what students should know and be able to do at specific grade levels: elementary, middle, secondary, and postsecondary. (See related story .)

For example, the standards suggest that students at all grade levels learn the characteristics of an entrepreneur and then evaluate the degree to which they possess those characteristics.

Students in the upper grades would be expected to develop a marketing, management, and business plan for an entrepreneurial venture.

Middle school students would be expected to define such terms as gross national product, balance of trade, foreign debt, and cost of living.

And they should be able to identify the natural, human, and capital resources used to produce goods and services that are exported to other countries, according to the draft.

College-Level Standards

Most of the standards documents that have been developed in other subjects have focused on grades K-12. But business educators decided to extend their standards beyond that, Ms. Treichel said.

"We have a strong presence at the postsecondary, community-college level, and when we have done curriculum development in the past, we have always taken it through that level," Ms. Treichel said.

The N.B.E.A. began drafting its standards in 1993 without government funding. It has spent about $100,000 on the project so far.

Initially, two groups of educators drafted the standards: one for grades K-12, the other for grades 13-14. About 300 people--from language-arts educators to business and industry representatives--have helped review and revise the early drafts, Ms. Treichel said.

(See education is constantly changing, and there have been a lot of new areas added, like international business," she said.

"We wanted to really define our discipline and communicate exactly what should be taught," Ms. Treichel said.

The standards do not mandate a specific curriculum, leaving to states and districts the task of designing curricula that would meet the standards.

The N.B.E.A. will release a final text of the standards in August.

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