Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research (Print ISSN: 1533-3590; Online ISSN: 1533-3604)


Assessing Economic Understanding in the Early Grades

Author(s): John J. Bethune, Erin Ellis

The issue of assessment is becoming increasingly important to a society that is demanding more value for, and return on, their educational dollars. Educational reform measures, passed by state legislatures, typically include assessment and productivity requirements. Federal and private grant agencies are also including outcome assessment requirements as part of their submission criteria for funding requests. In all of these cases, the use of pre and post testing is considered a valuable method for measuring success.
In economic education assessment tools exist for use at a variety of educational levels. These include the Test for Understanding College Economics (for college principles courses), the Test of Economic Literacy (Grades 11 and 12), the Test of Economic Knowledge (Grades 7 to 9), and the Basic Economics Test (Grades 5 and 6). All of these are nationally normed and offer a basic evaluation of economic understanding, relevant to each specific education level. Consequently, each is a valid tool for assessing economic knowledge through pre and post test use.
Below the 5th grade level, however, no specific test exists for measuring economic understanding. Since each of the above mentioned tests have reading comprehension as a prerequisite, a lack of this ability in the lower grades may explain why we do not offer assessment tools for these grade levels.
In an attempt to bridge this gap, the authors of this paper are developing a testing device for use in the early grades that is not dependent on reading comprehension and ability. After reviewing the education literature on early grade assessment, a potential instrument is discussed for use as a pre and post testing device, based on the concepts included in the Voluntary National Standards. Finally, potential uses of this assessment device are posited.