The head of the Georgia Council on Economic Education says what is tested in education is what gets prioritized. That is why he opposes eliminating the End-of-Course high school exam in economics. 

Opinion: Keep Georgia’s end-of-course test in economics

Mike Raymer is a former teacher of the year at Starr’s Mill High School in Fayette County, a former Georgia Council Economics Teacher of the Year and a former Georgia Council for the Social Studies Outstanding Social Studies Educator Award winner.

Suffice to say, he values economics education. In a piece today, he explains why he fears that education is at risk.

Now executive director of the Georgia Council on Economic Education, Raymer says eliminating the testing requirement for high school economics would negatively impact teachers’ ability to assess their students’ economic and financial literacy acumen. 

If testing is taken away, the Georgia Council on Economic Education worries there will be a detrimental effect on economic and personal finance education. 

On Friday, state School Superintendent Richard Woods said teachers statewide made clear in recent listening sessions there was still too much testing in Georgia schools.

Woods and the Department of Education are looking at which standardized tests Georgia could drop and still comply with federal benchmarking mandates. DOE says a priority in the legislative session that starts Monday is aligning the number of tests to the federally required minimum.

The Georgia Legislature pared down the number of mandatory standardized tests from 32 to 24 in 2016. That is still above the 17 tests required by federal law, though, with most of the surplus exams in high school. One of the tests that could be cut is the end-of-course exam required of high school students in Economics/Business/Free Enterprise.

Raymer argues tossing that test that would be a mistake.

By Mike Raymer

Are Georgia’s public schools adequately preparing students for their economic roles as productive workers, informed consumers and savers, involved citizens and lifelong decision makers in a globally interdependent world? Because of long-established course and testing requirements, the answer to that important question, for now, is yes. 

Since 1981, high school students in Georgia have been required to pass the Principles of Economics/Business/Free Enterprise course as a core graduation requirement. Georgia is now one of a handful of states requiring students to take an economics course that is accompanied by standardized testing requirements.

The result of this standardization is a bright spot that our teachers can boast of in national educational comparisons because Georgia is one of only seven states that require an economics course and standardized testing of that course.

In 2004, the Georgia Board of Education designated economics as one of eight high school courses required for graduation that would have an associated state standardized test that counts for 20% the course grade.

Georgia’s strong economics curriculum is the envy of many states. That our courses were created with state-mandated testing demonstrates that we take seriously the ability of our students to make smart economic decisions and have practical knowledge about personal finance. 

When administrators and teachers are provided with hard data specific to their students, their schools and school systems are empowered to make smart decisions on what to teach, how to teach it, and where to apply resources. 

Yet, the Georgia Department of Education has decided that students who study AP Economics or International Baccalaureate Economics will no longer be required to take the Georgia Milestones Exam in economics.

Even worse, the department is considering eliminating the testing requirement that measures students’ proficiency in high school economics – a short-sighted decision that would negatively impact teachers’ ability statewide to assess their students’ economic and financial literacy acumen. 

Mike Raymer has been Executive Director of the Georgia Council on Economic Education since 2017. His primary responsibilities include fundraising and fostering key corporate, foundation, and business relationships vital to the ongoing success of the organization.

The obvious, but so far unrecognized, consequence of removing economics testing would be that many schools would redirect their resources from economics to other courses which require state assessments.

Everyone in business knows that what gets measured gets managed. Similarly, in education, what is tested is prioritized in terms of professional development opportunities, teacher quality and resources. In our resource limited school systems can we truly justify de-emphasizing courses that teach basic economic principles and personal financial literacy? 

For 48 years, the Georgia Council on Economic Education has played a leading role in helping teachers teach economics and personal finance. Our private sector support comes from the business and financial communities that seek to employ a well-educated workforce. 

At a time when global economic competition recognizes few boundaries, we should be investing more time and resources in teaching our students how to manage their lives and careers in a global world. 

If we falter in this effort, our students and our state will pay a price we can ill afford. Our credible claim that Georgia is truly the best state in the nation for business development will diminish and companies will invest in those places where educators prepare their students for the world as it exists and is evolving. 

Let’s show the world that we’re sincere in our devotion to developing an economically literate workforce and that we intend to measure our progress rigorously. To do less is, at best, a disservice to our students and a signal that we don’t have the discipline or foresight to do what is in our own long-term interests. Share your concerns with elected state officials to let them know that you support the teaching of economics and personal finance in our high schools accompanied by important testing requirements. 

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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