WASHINGTON (AP) — The Wall Street meltdown of 2008 and the ensuing recession did little to help make high school seniors financially savvy and less than half of them have a solid understanding of economics, according to an Education Department report released this week.
In real terms, that might mean that students may have difficulty understanding the impact of a poor credit rating, the relationship between consumer spending and higher unemployment or how inflation can eat away at pay raises.
Students' scores of economic literacy changed little between 2006 and 2012, suggesting that the national discussion about the millions of jobs that were lost and homes that were foreclosed didn't translate to higher academic achievement. During that period, several states added an economics course to high school offerings and some started requiring it to earn a diploma.
“It is astonishing that high school seniors do not know more about how economics affects their wallets, their country and the world at a pivotal time in their lives, whether they choose to enter the workforce or pursue higher education,” said David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which runs the federal tests. “We need to do more to educate all students in economics so they can make informed decisions, whether they are negotiating a car loan, voting or reading financial news.”
The findings show that more than half of students leave high school without an economic knowledge that federal officials consider proficient. In 2012, 39 percent of students had a basic understanding of economics and 18 percent were considered below basic.
About 10,900 high school seniors at 480 public and private schools took the economics test as part of the 2012 National Assessment of Educational Progress, more commonly called “the nation's report card.”
Overall achievement on the tests was flat since 2006, when the economic questions were first asked. For all students, the average performance shifted from 150 to 152 on a 300-point scale.
“The overall scores for the two assessments were not significantly different,” said Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department's research arm.