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SELENA SWARTZFAGER — La La land economics not taught in Mississippi classrooms

SELENA SWARTZFAGER

SELENA SWARTZFAGER

Recently you may have read an article in the Christmas day edition of the Mississippi Business Journal by Bill Crawford where he talked about the use of la la land economics.  While I don’t have an opinion to share on his article, what I do have is a commitment to the creation of Mississippi students that do not practice la la land economics.  The students of today will indeed be the leaders of tomorrow in business, government, and education.  Thankfully for Mississippians, high school students are required to take one semester of economics before graduation.  This course when taught properly teaches students the economic way of thinking.  As you have heard me say before, people choose and all choices involve costs.  Not only do these choices involve costs, but they have consequences for the future.  Far too many times decisions are made based on desires for immediate gratification.

My commitment to Mississippi students involves working every day to ensure the teachers in Mississippi tasked with teaching economics are highly qualified to do so.  Students that attend schools where the Mississippi Council on Economic Education (MCEE) has trained their teachers as Master Teachers of Economics (MTE) are guaranteed a higher level of economic education than students attending schools without MTEs.  Research conducted by Mississippi State University faculty shows that social studies teachers without the MTE score on average 62 percent on a Test of Economic Literacy normed for high school students.  This is not a passing score and many times we rely on these teachers to teach our students.  After completing the MTE program these teachers score on average 86 percent following the training for a 38 percent gain, which is highly statistically significant.   As a result, students instructed by MTEs score 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, which is highly statistically significant. For the first time in the fall of 2015, the MTE program was offered as a pilot online course.  An evaluation of the online program will allow for fine tuning.  We strive to be both effective and accessible for all teachers in Mississippi.  Moving this program online removes the barriers of travel and scheduling.

Your call to action is to ask the question, “Are the economics teachers at the schools in my town, county, or district Master Teachers of Economics?”  If the answer is no, then ask “why not?”  Thanks to Mississippi businesses, legislators and organizations that support the MTE program, economics teachers statewide are accepted into this program at no financial cost to the teacher or school district.  MCEE compensates the educators for their opportunity cost via a stipend and continuing education units which they are required to obtain by the MS Department of Education to maintain their teaching license.  The next MTE class will take place at Millsaps College in June 2016.  Encourage the high school social studies teachers you know to become the best economics teachers they can be.  Encourage the high school principals you know to insist their economics teachers are highly qualified.  The mission of MCEE is 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.  This is surely a marathon and not a sprint.  Ask what you can do to assist MCEE in the mission to eradicate la la land economics in Mississippi!

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

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