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Only 42% of High School Seniors Are Proficient in Areas of Personal Finance

Aug 10, 2007

According to the first ever National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) economics survey of 12th grade students, less than half of the 11,500 high school participants were deemed proficient when questioned about areas of market economics, including personal finance and the national economy.

Economic Assessment Results

Of the 11,500 high school seniors surveyed at 590 public and private schools:

  • 79% have a basic understanding of economics
  • 40% understand the role of an economic system
  • Only 42% scored high enough to be considered proficient in areas of personal finance
  • 3% had advanced knowledge of economics
  • On average, male students scored better than female students

While most students at this grade level study some form of economics, less than half of the seniors who participated in the nationally representative survey scored high enough to reach the proficient level.

Ranked On a Scale from 0 to 300

Students Points (Average)
Male 152
Female 148
Asian 153
Black 127
Hispanic 123
Pacific Islander 153
White 158
Large Schools 142
Small Schools 154

Overall Average 150

On a scale from 0 to 300, the average score was 150. To be considered 'proficient', students needed a score of at least 160 ('advanced' students needed to score above 208).

What Students Do and Don't Know

The NAEP assessment covered three key areas of economics: the market economy (economic choices for buyers and sellers), the national economy (conditions of the U.S. economy), and the international economy (interaction of national economies).

Of the students tested, 79 percent had at least a basic understanding of these three areas; the other 21 percent did not.

'The assessment provides good news and challenging news. It is encouraging that a large percentage of students have a basic understanding of economics, however, less than half of the students performed at the proficient level,' says Robert Duvall, President and CEO of the National Council on Economic Education. 'No longer is the question 'Should we take action on improving economic education?' but 'How shall we do it'.'

Sample Test Question

The following question did not appear in this exact form on the test, but it is very similar. Only 36 percent of the 12th grade participants were able to answer correctly. Can you? (Note: The answer is below. Don't peek.)

Company XYZ has 10 workers, and would like to hire more. Each worker costs company XYZ $100 per day. Using the table below, determine how many total workers XYZ should have on staff to maximize profits:

# of Workers Total Revenue Per Day
10 $1,000
11 $1,250
12 $1,325
13 $1,385
14 $1,400

Your Choices:

A.) 10

B.) 11

C.) 12

D.) 13


The answer is eleven


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