Economic education initiative making exciting progress

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Published: May 30,2005

Exciting progress is taking place throughout our state to provide economic education, and it is important that all Mississippians know about the work of the Mississippi Council on Economic Education (MCEE), so that they can be included in this effort.

The MCEE was founded at the urging of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and former Gov. William Winter in order to help teachers in kindergarten through grade 12 infuse economics into their lessons.

Economic principles are part of everyday life, and the more a person knows, the better he/she can function in our world today. The 27 businesspersons and educators who join me as members of the board of directors of the MCEE along with our MCEE president, Dr. Pamela Smith, are responsible for the fact that in less than two years of being operational, we have trained more than 1,100 teachers who are reaching at least 110,000 of our 500,000 students in public and private schools.

There is no question the work the teachers are doing as a result of the training will lead to a better-prepared workforce.

Learning the market — and more

People know the MCEE best by our premiere program, the Mississippi Stock Market Simulation (SMS), and after two years, over 1,600 teams and more than 7,100 students in grades four through 12 have participated. We had a 57% increase in the number of teams registered for the SMS this year with teachers from throughout the state participating in the 10-week simulation.

Jackson Prep won the SMS this year and increased the value of their stock portfolio by 27.7%, and the winning team will enjoy a trip to New York City thanks to the sponsors: Entergy Mississippi and The Clarion-Ledger.

Most importantly, teachers tell us that as they use the MCEE curriculum and programming, students learn terminology they need in the work world and how to use it. They also learn how to make better choices, research companies using newspapers and the Internet, how to work together in making decisions, why math and communications skills are so important, and why it is important to be organized and how to keep records.

How we work

People need to know how the MCEE works. The work is done through effective partnerships using curriculum materials that are research based and are published by the National Council on Economic Education, a 57-year-old organization in New York City that works with the top economic educators throughout the nation. In recent months, the MCEE formed a partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education, and we thank Dr. Henry Johnson, state superintendent, and his staff for working with us to craft a plan to reach all teachers with economic and investor education and personal finance.

The teachers are taught by university faculty who are experts in economic education. The MCEE and the Mississippi State University (MSU) Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy have a most effective partnership and the recently announced Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Mississippi will soon be the location for our second Center for Economics Education.

The MCEE training provided to teachers is funded by businesses, foundations and individuals. The teachers do not pay for the training. The MCEE’s calendar is full for the summer with training programs for teachers on personal finance, the SMS, international economics, economics in U.S. History and children’s literature as well as a three-day program with the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis along with their branches in New Orleans and Memphis and Jumpstart MS.

Professional development for teachers

In addition, thanks to the partnership with Dr. Johnson, the MSU Center and to the efforts of the U.S. congressional delegation in securing a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the MCEE is able to offer the Master Teacher in Economics (MTE), a professional development program, to equip an initial group of 50 teachers with economic principles and state-of-the art curriculum in Advanced Placement Economics and economics education.

This year-long program will help teachers to teach a rigorous economics curriculum and support classrooms with strategies and resources needed to better prepare students for the real world. The MTE will help teachers prepare students for National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)-selected pilot schools that will be tested in economics in 2006 and to fulfill the requirement for economics to be phased in beginning with the ninth grade class 2008. Teachers have had little training in economics including investor education and financial literacy throughout their education and the MTE will address a gap that must be filled.

Our future depends on our students’ ability to contribute to the economy. The MCEE can speak to the professionalism and commitment of the teachers that use our programming, and there is a great deal to be enthusiastic about as a result of the progress that is being made across our state with the MCEE programming. I urge anyone who is not currently involved with the MCEE to get involved as there are tremendous rewards from this work.

The MCEE can be contacted by e-mail at mscouncil@mscee.org or phoning (601) 961-4408.

Dr. Ted Alexander is chair of the board of directors of the Mississippi Council on Economic Education and is president and chief executive officer of the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation. He resides in Hattiesburg.

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