April 18, 2014  

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Southern Miss Center Supports Lamar County Economics Education

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A partnership between The University of Southern Mississippi Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education (CEEE) and Lamar County schools has paid off with some national acclaim.

Recently, the Council for Economic Education in New York City designated Lamar County schools as a national model for success. The CEEE at Southern Miss has been assisting Lamar County through teacher training and workshops in efforts to infuse economic and financial education into their K-12 curriculum.

“These results indicate the positive impacts of the Master Teacher in Economics program and Virtual Economic CD when infused in a wider manner across schools,” said Dr. Brent Hales, CEEE director at Southern Miss. “Putting these principles to work within other contexts allows the students to learn about economics in context with real life.”

The CEEE has been a constant supporter of the local initiative, offering the Master Teacher in Economics (MTE) trainings in Hattiesburg and helping provide teachers throughout the district with the tools required to integrate the principles of economics within their respective courses. Training materials came from applicable teacher experience and a software resource titled “Virtual Economics CD-Rom (VE).” The CD is an interactive tool that covers the core concepts of economics and personal finance through an extensive database of more than 1,200 individual K-12 lessons based on the Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics.

Assessments of the initiative, which began in 2007, have indicated significant progress in students’ understanding and application of economics and personal finance. High school student results on the Test of Economic Literacy, a nationally averaged assessment, have shown one semester of infusion can improve performance on test by 30 percent.

“Economics is current and relative to each individual,” said Sue Stevens, Lamar County Coordinator of Economics Initiative. “Our goal is to build background knowledge in economics to help students prepare for the future.”

To date, 38 Lamar County teachers have received the MTE certification. Ten of the 14 schools used the economics curriculum during the 2009-10 school year with a total of 827 economics lessons being infused in the wider curriculum. Elementary and middle school teachers taught 608 infused lessons while 219 were taught in district high schools.

Dr. Ben Burnett, superintendent of the Lamar County School District, credits the infusion program with enlightening students about real-world economic issues.

“In light of what is going on our world, a focus on economic education increases our students’ awareness on the important of a sound financial education,” said Burnett. “They become better prepared to deal with the financial realities of functioning in an increasingly complex world.

“The success that the Lamar County School District’s Economic Infusion Program has received would not have been possible without the partnerships with the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education at The University of Southern Mississippi and Dr. Pamela Smith of the Mississippi Council on Economic Education as well as the hard work of Sue Stevens.”

For more information about the CEEE, its programs or the Lamar County Economics Infusion Program, contact Hales at 601.266.6519 or brent.hales@usm.edu