Last year, Georgia changed the way it does some of its student assessments. In April 2011, the state Board of Education approved a plan to phase out the Georgia High School Graduation tests beginning with the class of 2015. State officials say end-of-course tests, which began in Georgia last year, are a better measure of how much students have learned. And, with improvements in test scores in nearly every subject, they may have been right.
The biggest increase was in economics, which went from 72% to 75% passing. Curiously, there was a one percent decrease in the number of students passing the Mathematics II exam, which includes geometry, Algebra II and statistics. Overall, 54% of students passed that test this year.
Full disclosure: Geometry was my single favorite math class in high school. It was easy for me to appreciate looking at an object and figuring out what was expected from it based on set rules. I didn’t have a statistics course in high school and honestly can’t remember anything other than ratios that would have been considered “statistics” when in high school. And, I know that I didn’t have anything in that remotely resembled the horror of my college statistics course. In all fairness, I can respect students struggling with that particular element -- except that the economics scores were so much higher than the math scores and you need not a small amount of understanding of algebra and statistics to succeed in an economics course.
My completely non-scientific assessment is that in an economics course the math is in a situation and that makes it work better for students. In college, we all had to choose at least two “Integrated Subjects” for our electives (mine were social psychology and educational psychology – both very fascinating!). Economics is a great example of an integrated, or compounded, subject in high school. It is parts history, sociology, and math, at the very least.
Combining cross-subject, multi-platform areas – like in an economics course, for example – gets students to the “why” and “how” where they make application and connection and true learning ignites.
This summer, as everyone is spending extra time studying and maybe even groaning over Common Core, perhaps we can all remember the inspiration of Georgia high schoolers’ significant gains in economics, thereby embracing the increased cross-subject emphasis. There is a chance it is just what Georgia’s students need.