Campus: CSU Fullerton -- July 15, 2005
Cal State Fullerton Professors Want to Know: Are High
School Students Economically Literate?
How well do high school students understand basic economics?
This fall, two Cal State Fullerton economics professors will be exploring how
much 12th graders in three Orange County school districts know about such concepts
as supply and demand, inflation and recession.
Since 1998, California high school seniors have been required to attend and
complete a one-semester economics course prior to graduation. The goal, say
researchers, is to increase their knowledge about personal finance and how
economic issues affect businesses and governments.
Since the requirement was instituted, however, little research has been done to
find out how much students understand before and after attending the courses,
said Andrew Gill, professor of economics, and Chiara Gratton-Lavoie, director
of Cal State Fullerton's Center for Economics Education and a lecturer in
With the support of a $19,587 grant from the National Council on Economic
Education, Gill and Gratton-Lavoie will test how much high school seniors know
prior to and after attending the required course to evaluate their knowledge.
The duo also will survey students to gather information on race, ethnicity and
"Our goal is a sample of 1,000 students, so we'll be testing students in 30 to 32
classes," noted Gratton-Lavoie, adding that they will be working with teachers in
the Fullerton Joint Union High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda and Capistrano unified
It's a baseline study to discover the strengths and weaknesses in student
understanding, said Gill, stressing that it will not be used to judge how well
individual instructors teach the course matter. The overall goal is not to test
how well students learn specific theory and process, added Gill, but to see if
they have grasped an understanding of basic core principles, such as inflation,
unemployment and supply.
"It's a simple objective but one that is very important," Gratton-Lavoie said.
"We are not aware of other research studies that focus specifically on economic
literacy in Southern California high schools."
Gratton-Lavoie has taught at Cal State Fullerton since 1999 and overseen the
Center for Economic Education since 2002. Part of the College of Business and
Economics, the center's purpose is to provide technical economic education services
to improve the level of economic understanding in grades K-12, institutions of
higher education and the surrounding community. In addition to a 10-week stock
market simulation offered to schools throughout the Southland, the center offers
consultations and workshops for high school and middle school instructors.
Gill, a member of Cal State Fullerton's faculty since 1984, teaches courses on
labor economics, principles of microeconomics and econometrics. In addition to
this research project, Gill also is working on an evaluation of the education
services and mission achievement of California's community colleges.
Chiara Gratton-Lavoie at (714) 278-2248 or
Andrew Gill at (714) 278-3076 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at (714) 278-4852 or