Business, College of


Date of this Version

May 1988


Published in American Economic Review 78:2 (May 1988), pp. 251-256. Copyright © 1988 American Economic Association. Used by permission.


In the 1980's, assessment and critique of American education has taken center stage. A large segment of the public is upset with the educational achievement of precollege students in several content areas. Economics should now be added to the list of failing subjects because the results of our study show a poor performance by many high school students in their knowledge of basic economic concepts.

The study is-based on a large, national sample of students who took the second edition of the Test of Economic Literacy (TEL) (Soper-Walstad, 1987). The TEL is a nationally normed and standardized test of the basic economic understanding of students in eleventh and twelfth grades, consisting of two forms of 46 multiple choice questions. The test questions were based on A Framework for Teaching the Basic Concepts (Phillip Saunders et al., 1984). This content guide describes 22 basic economic concepts in four concept clusters- fundamental, microeconomic, macroeconomic, and international- that should be taught in secondary schools to enable students, "by the time they graduate from high school, to understand enough economics to make reasoned judgments about economic questions" (p. 1).

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