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Economics Not Such a Dismal Science for US High School Students

A newly released study finds that 79 percent of 12th-graders have at least a basic understanding. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

How much do American high school students know about economics? A new report shows that seventy-nine percent of twelfth-graders have at least a basic level of understanding.

The results come from testing eleven thousand five hundred students last year in public and private schools.

In fact, students did better in economics than in history or science.

Only forty-seven percent of those tested reached the basic level in history. And fifty-four percent performed at or above the basic level in science.

This is the first time the federal government has measured economic understanding among high school students. The study was done as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, called the Nation's Report Card.

Only one-third of the fifty states require it, but most students these days study some economics in high school. In nineteen eighty-two, forty-nine percent of high school graduates had taken an economics class. By two thousand five it was sixty-six percent.

The study rated understanding at three levels: basic, proficient and advanced. Forty-two percent of students reached the proficient level. Three percent tested at the highest achievement level.

Students received a score with a point value between zero and three hundred. The report says male students scored an average of four points higher than female students. And students from schools in large cities did not do as well as those from other places.

Students answered questions in three major areas: market economy and national and international economy.

Seventy-two percent could describe the risks and possible rewards of leaving a job for more education. Fifty-two percent knew what happens to money deposited in banks. But only eleven percent understood how changes in the unemployment rate affect pay, spending and production.

The next economics testing will take place in two thousand twelve.

So what does happen to most of the money deposited in checking accounts at a commercial bank? A) It is used to pay the bank's expenses. B) It is loaned to other bank customers. C) It is kept in the bank's vault until depositors withdraw the funds. Or, D) It is paid to owners of the bank as return on their investment.

The correct answer: B) It is loaned to other bank customers.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. For a link to the full report, including other sample questions, go to I'm Mario Ritter.