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MSU professor leading national economics education group

While economic trends impact our daily lives, many students and adults fail to take a proactive interest in their financial futures. However, one Magnolia State professor on the front lines of economic literacy is hoping to see that change.

Paul Grimes, head of Mississippi State University’s (MSU’s) finance and economics department, was recently elected as the next leader of the National Association of Economic Educators (NAEE). While he officially assumes the presidency in 2009, he will play a primary role in organizing NAEE’s annual conference in Biloxi this October. The 50-state NAEE, in association with the National Council on Economic Education, maintains a network of more than 250 university-based centers. With educational advocacy as a primary focus, the mission of these centers is to provide professional development opportunities for teachers of economics and personal finance in elementary and high schools.

Grimes, who has served on MSU’s faculty since 1987, currently directs MSU’s Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy. Established in 2003, the center has assisted more than 2,000 K-12 teachers, Grimes stated, and is affiliated with the Mississippi Council on Economic Education and NCEE. The outreach to teachers, according to Grimes, can have a significant impact on students, as he stated that it’s estimated that each teacher reaches approximately 100 students during each school year. Another center opened last year at the University of Southern Mississippi, Grimes noted, and concentrates on the southern half of the state, while MSU’s center focuses on the northern half.

Frontline teaching

Grimes says that one of the biggest programming accomplishments to date for Mississippi economics education advocates has been the delivery of the Master Teacher of Economics Program (MTE). This program is the equivalent of six hours of graduate coursework, instructing teachers in both economic content and modern pedagogy, Grimes says.

Through arrangements with the Mississippi Department of Education, teachers who complete the MTE are designated “highly qualified” in economics, and business teachers who complete the MTE receive an economics endorsement to teach the high school course, Grimes added.

The MTE is offered in a number of formats including distance technologies, and teachers who complete the program demonstrate significant gains in economic understanding as measured by standardized tests, Grimes stated.

National research agenda

In terms of areas of focus from national and Mississippi perspectives, Grimes says that he would like to see NAEE take on a stronger role in coordinating a national research agenda.

“At the moment, there is not a lot of sharing of research data between the more than 200 centers across the country,” Grimes observed. “The capacity to collect data is an enormous, but virtually untapped, resource. If we cooperated with the collection and dissemination of data, we could begin to answer a lot of interesting questions.”

In Mississippi, much of the group’s focus will be on teacher training in high school economics and personal finance. “Many more teachers need to be properly trained and prepared to teach this vital course that has the potential to significantly impact the lives of our next generation of Mississippians,” Grimes stated.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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