Business, College of


Date of this Version

May 2008


Published in American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings 2008, 98:2,541-546. Copyright 2008. Used by permission.


Since 1969, achievement studies have been conducted in various subjects in elementary and secondary school curricula as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Economics has now been added to the list. This study offers a brief description of the NAEP test in economics and presents some findings from the 2006 assessment given to twelfth-grade students who were taking a general economics course.

NAEP is mandated by Congress and administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the US Department of Education. Policy direction and review are under the control of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). For the economics assessment, the National Council on Economic Education, the American Institutes for Research, and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed a content framework for economics in 2001. These organizations established several committees composed of economists, educators, business and government leaders, and testing experts to prepare the assessment framework, subject to final approval by the NAGB.

The major decision for the test developers was what economics content should be included in the test. Most economics courses in high schools last for a semester and cover basic microeconomic and/or macroeconomic concepts and applications. Some economics courses are Advanced Placement or honors courses that focus on college-level principles of economics. There are also combined courses in economics with government. A limited amount of economics content also may be taught in such subjects as consumer economics or personal finance, business education or entrepreneurship, history, and government (Walstad 2001). Given these conditions, the framework had to cover the broad range of what high school students might be taught about economics. A decision was made to target the assessment at what would likely be taught in a general economics course for high school students and the document used for content specification was the Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics.

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