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Black Students Receive F in Economics, According to National Report Card Assessment


When it comes to knowing the basics of economics, such as how banks use money deposited into checking accounts to fund loans and what the nation’s primary source of revenue is, Black students are the most clueless, according to the Nation’s Report Card on Economics.

The assessment result was released last week by the National Assessment Governing Board, an independent board that includes governors, legislators and educators, as part of the board’s annual evaluation on the condition of education in the country.

In the sample of more than 11,000 12th-graders from both public and private schools across the country, the average score in the basic achievement range of what students should already know about economics and the American economy, Blacks scored the lowest.

Black students’ average achievement level score was 127 compared to White students who scored 158; Asian and Pacific Islander students, 153; American Indian/Alaska Natives, 137; and Hispanics, 133. The mean score was 150 out of a 300-point scale.

“I was not terribly surprised at the overall results. There is a racial gap on every NAEP assessment,” said Dr. Cecilia A. Conrad, dean of faculty at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., and member of one of the committees that reviewed the questions.

“Even the fact that Hispanics scored higher than Blacks has a possible explanation. Many Latino teenagers act as language brokers for their parents. They translate for them in dealing with landlords, financial institutions, bill collectors etc. and I’d expect these language brokers to have higher economic literacy than other teenagers.”

Conrad says that a more in-depth comparison between students with similar backgrounds will answer whether Black students’ economic illiteracy is linked to the history of the social economical disadvantages Blacks face in America or the lack of trust Blacks have with the government.The questions that the students were asked were both formal and informal to ensure fairness among the students who came from diverse backgrounds.

They ranged from a babysitting scenario, which asked about the effects of a higher pay will have on the time students spend on their academics, to the rise in the cost of gas, to buying CDs and the duties of the Federal Reserve.

However, Darvin M. Winick, chair of NAGB, said while there is room for improvement, the results are not discouraging.

“Given the number of students who finish high school with a limited vocabulary, not reading well and weak in math, the results may be as good as or better than we should expect.”

Warnick says the results of the assessment suggest that there needs to be an emphasis on the overall high school curriculum to help students become more “literate and numerate.”

The report linked the students’ scores to that of the level of education completed by their parents. The higher level of parental education, the higher the student’s score.

For instance, 49 percent of the students who reported at least one of their parents graduated from college scored an average of 160, placing them in the “proficient” range, the level where students were able to identify and apply key economic concept.

Students who reported that neither parent graduated from high school had a average score of 129, the basic range, a level in which students were only able to identify a limited set of economic concepts and put the concept into simple application.

This was the first time that the board conducted an evaluation on economics, and plans to do a follow-up economic assessment in 2012.

– Margaret Kamara

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