More than half of American 12th graders lack proficiency in economics, according to new results from “,” with no overall change in performance when compared with results from 2006, the last time the assessment was administered.
In all, 43 percent of high school seniors scored “proficient” or above on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in economics, which covers such topics as personal finance, business, government policy, and international trade. The results were released last month.
While the average score of 12th graders held steady, the data show some improvements from 2006. For instance, the percentage of students scoring below the “basic” level decreased from 21 percent in 2006 to 18 percent six years later. The percentage of Hispanic students scoring at or above basic grew from 64 percent to 71 percent, but that growth was not considered statistically significant.
In a conference call with reporters, National Center for Education Statistics Commissioner Sean P. “Jack” Buckley suggested that Hispanic students’ improvement may be explained by improved literacy skills rather than better understanding of economics.
The data show a persistent gender gap in economics, with boys on average scoring 6 points higher than girls on the NAEP scale of 0 to 300.
The results also show big gaps by race, ethnicity, and income, consistent with the patterns across all NAEP subjects. For example, 53 percent of white students scored proficient or above, compared with just 17 percent of African-American students and 26 percent of Hispanic students. Looked at another way, four out of 10 black students scored “below basic,” as compared with one in 10 white students.
The new NAEP economics results came just a week after the Council of Economic Education issued a set of national standards for financial literacy at the K-12 level.
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2013 edition of Education Week as NAEP Economics Results Highlight Proficiency Gaps