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SELENA SWARTZFAGER: Students best prepared by Master Teachers of Economics

FOR THE MBJ First Place - Adam Smith Division - Ocean Springs High School  Front row: Angela Sanders (teacher), Erica Charlton, Gavin Beaugoise, Peter Kooienga and Spenser Flottman; Back row: John Dorsa (State Farm), Dr. Nicholas Hill (Jackson State University), Dr. Michelle Matthews (Delta State University), Dr. Becky Smith (Mississippi State University), Cory Wilson (MCEE Board member and Office of the State Treasurer), Dr. Mark Van Boening (University of Mississippi) and Selena Swartzfager (Mississippi Council on Economic Education).

FOR THE MBJ
First Place – Adam Smith Division – Ocean Springs High School Front row: Angela Sanders (teacher), Erica Charlton, Gavin Beaugoise, Peter Kooienga and Spenser Flottman; Back row: John Dorsa (State Farm), Dr. Nicholas Hill (Jackson State University), Dr. Michelle Matthews (Delta State University), Dr. Becky Smith (Mississippi State University), Cory Wilson (MCEE Board member and Office of the State Treasurer), Dr. Mark Van Boening (University of Mississippi) and Selena Swartzfager (Mississippi Council on Economic Education).

Last week, 20 teams from 18 schools from throughout Mississippi competed, flexing their intellectual muscle and testing their economic knowledge at the state Economics Challenge.  In its 12th year and made possible by BankPlus, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, State Farm, Millsaps College, and Security Ballew, Inc. and delivered by the Mississippi Council on Economic Education, high school students completed three rounds of testing, worked in teams to solve case problems, and participated in a quick-paced quiz-bowl in order to compete for the title of State Champions.

Every spring, the council applies the excitement of an athletic competition to academic excellence and encourages students to apply their economics knowledge and work in teams at the State Economics Challenge.  Qualifying rounds of the competition are held three times during the school year at the school level via online testing. In each competition, teams of students answer rigorous questions on microeconomics, macroeconomics, international economics, and current events. Top scoring teams from the online challenge advance to the State Challenge.

This competition for high school students has two divisions: The Adam Smith Division, for advanced placement, international baccalaureate and honors students; and the David Ricardo Division for one semester general economics students.  The highest scoring students and teams in each division by region qualified to compete for $8,250 in college scholarships and awards at the state level.  While schools from across the state competed, those that came out on the other side as Economics Champions were Ocean Springs High School and Jackson Prep.  Each of the students on these teams received a $750 college scholarship to be used at the college or university.

First Place - David Ricardo Division - Jackson Prep Front row:  Malcom Saxon (teacher), Ben Clark, Eliza Heidelberg, and Kyle Culbertso; Back row: John Dorsa (State Farm), Dr. Nicholas Hill (Jackson State University), Dr. Michelle Matthews (Delta State University), Dr. Becky Smith (Mississippi State University), Cory Wilson (MCEE Board member and Office of the State Treasurer), Dr. Mark Van Boening (University of Mississippi) and Selena Swartzfager (Mississippi Council on Economic Education).

First Place – David Ricardo Division – Jackson Prep Front row: Malcom Saxon (teacher), Ben Clark, Eliza Heidelberg, and Kyle Culbertso; Back row: John Dorsa (State Farm), Dr. Nicholas Hill (Jackson State University), Dr. Michelle Matthews (Delta State University), Dr. Becky Smith (Mississippi State University), Cory Wilson (MCEE Board member and Office of the State Treasurer), Dr. Mark Van Boening (University of Mississippi) and Selena Swartzfager (Mississippi Council on Economic Education).

One of the most telling results of this year’s competition is that all but one of the teams qualifying for the state Challenge were coached by an economics teacher who is a master teacher of economics or a master teacher of economics candidate.  While there are other variables that might have affected the success of these students, one can certainly argue that one very important variable for student success in economics is a highly qualified teacher.  The council created the master teacher of economics program in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education and the Center for Economic Education at Mississippi State University to ensure the economics teachers in MS know their stuff and know how to teach it!  In order to teach an academic course in economics in Mississippi, a teacher only needs a social studies endorsement.  Research shows that social studies teachers in Mississippi without the master teacher certification score an average of 62 percent on the Test of Economic Literacy, which is a test normed for high school students.  If it has been a while since you were in school, you may not remember that this is a failing grade.  Teachers cannot teach what they do not know.  After these same teachers completed the certification, they scored on average 86 percent.  This increase in knowledge of 39 percent is highly significant.  In addition, students instructed by master teacher of economics scored on average 48 percent on a Test of Economic Literacy normed for high school students before instruction and 86 percent following the instruction for a 79 percent gain, also highly statistically significant.

The question to ask is, “Are the economics teachers employed by the high schools in my district MTE prepared?”  If not, they have the opportunity to complete the program this June at no cost to the teacher or school district thanks to funding from Mississippi organizations that believe in the council mission to increase economic and financial literacy in Mississippi by providing resources and training to public and private K-12 school teachers, empowering students to create a more prosperous future for themselves and Mississippi.  More information on this program can be found on the “workshop” page at www.mscee.org.  Do your part by encouraging the teachers you know to enroll in this essential program.  Don’t you want your students educated by the best?

Eat. Sleep. Economics.

» Selena Swartzfager is president of the Mississippi Council for Economic Education. She can be reached at swartsc@millsaps.edu.

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