Thursday, February 5, 2009

AP Program Has Many Advantages

USJ Today, February 2009

In my nearly 20 years in independent schools, I have come to understand that we must provide our students and families with some sort of “value added.” That is, we need to offer our families some benefit or advantage that they are unable to get elsewhere. In this vein, the USJ Upper School is extraordinarily proud of the rigor of our curriculum, our high level of academic support, our history of placing 100% of our graduates in a college of their choice, and our record of extraordinary student achievement once our graduates attend college. A fairly large component of our rigorous curriculum and our students’ success in college can, in my opinion, be attributed to our Advanced Placement (AP) program, which is unmatched by any other school in West Tennessee. In case you are not aware, I’d like to point to the benefits of this program, both from a researched-based perspective, and from anecdotal evidence here at our school.

The Advanced Placement program is administered by an organization called the College Board, which is located in Princeton, NJ. Thirty-seven AP examinations are offered in 22 subject areas. Students who take AP classes do not earn college credit for taking the courses, but rather, earn credit through a national examination in each subject area. Each subject area exam is given on the same day across the world. The exams are comprised of a multiple choice section and some sort of “constructed” or “free response” section, and they are then holistically graded on a five-point scale (Clemmitt, 2006). Typically, college credit is granted for a score of three or higher (Byrd, 2007). Over 3,700 colleges and universities in the United States offer some kind of AP credit ("AP and IB," 2006; "AP," 2008; Rhodes, 2007).

In 2008, USJ students took 179 Advanced Placement examinations in 16 different subject areas. 79% of the scores on these AP exams were a three or higher. In fact, 57% of all graduates of USJ score a grade of three or higher some time during their high school career, and the vast majority of students take at least one AP course during their four years in the USJ Upper School.
In a general sense, the advantages of an AP program are clearly elucidated by the literature:

  1. AP courses better prepare students for college (Mathews, 2007; Melton, 2007; Rhodes, 2007).
  2. AP courses avail students the opportunity to earn college credit, which can save students money in college, allow them to graduate from college sooner, and/or take a wider variety of courses in college (Mathews, 2007)
  3. AP coursework aids high school graduates in gaining admission to college— to selective colleges, in particular (Byrd, 2007; Lord, 2000; Wilensky, 2007).
It should also be noted that the AP program has been widely recognized for its excellence (Byrd, 2007; Clemmitt, 2006; Kyburg, Hertberg-Davis, & Callahan, 2007). In particular, the AP curriculum has been recognized for its high academic standards and its clear goals for student learning outcomes (Brighouse et al., 2006; Byrd, 2007). Furthermore, the end-of-course examinations are closely connected to the course curriculum and content. Moreover, in order to succeed on AP exams, students have to synthesize complex material, make intellectual connections, explicated and support opinions, and employ information in a novel way (Byrd, 2007). Finally, the program has a proven track record, as it has been in existence over 50 years.

One of the strongest appeals of the AP program for parents is the evidence that AP courses prepare their children better for college than do “regular” courses (Lord, 2000; Mathews, 2007). Additionally, there is much stronger evidence to support the efficacy of AP programs than there is to support college joint-enrollment programs that have been offered by various high schools across the United States (Hughes, 2008; Karp, Calcagno, Hughes, Jeong, & Bailey, 2008). For example, in a 10-year longitudinal study of 67,000 students which was conducted by the National Center for Educational Accountability, students who took AP courses were two-times more likely to graduate from college than students who had not taken such courses (Melton, 2007). This study also showed that AP courses have been particularly helpful to Latino and African American students: Minority students who took these courses were three times more likely to graduate from college than students who did not take any AP courses (Melton, 2007). Students and teachers have also consistently attested to the strengths of these more rigorous programs (Matthews & Kitchen, 2007).

Certainly, taking an AP class affords students advantages in the college admissions process and provides a highly rigorous curriculum; but make no mistake -- a successful AP also program depends on quality teachers who are knowledgeable in their subject area (Byrd, 2007; Clemmitt, 2006; Lord, 2000). In this regard, I can attest that USJ’s faculty is as strong as any in the country. Currently, 12 out of 14 upper school AP teachers hold an advanced degree, and each teacher has won numerous awards and accolades. Too, the average teaching experience for USJ’s AP teachers is a remarkable 23 years. Finally, I should mention that 7 of our AP teachers have served as AP readers. This means that they have actually graded students’ AP exams from all over the county. Of course, this experience gives our AP teachers a unique understanding of what it takes for our USJ students to be successful on the exam.

In short, the AP program is but one portion of the “value” we believe USJ “adds” to your student’s high school experience. I believe that this value added exists even for students who never take an AP class. This is because the high standards that we set for AP courses help to create an overall atmosphere of excellence at the school. That is, even if students do not participate in the program, they benefit from a culture that values rigor and prizes a life-long love of learning.

Coming to USJ, Not a Tough Decision

USJ Today, July 2008

I’ve now been an official Jacksonian for almost a month. Of course, the people here are exceedingly friendly, and they all want to know what brought me to Jackson. In fact, many people seem surprised that someone would make such a move from the “big city” of Atlanta to the “small town” of Jackson. Honestly, I didn’t think the decision to move here was that difficult. It occurs to me that, perhaps, people forget what they have here in Jackson – and at USJ in particular. What attracted me to USJ is quite easy to articulate.

First, in the scores of schools I visited in my role as a member of school accreditation teams, I never encountered a place that was warmer than USJ. Without exception, every teacher, parent, and student I encountered in my visits here was affable and welcoming. Moreover, everyone I met who was associated with USJ virtually burst with pride when speaking about the school. Such a strong sense of community pride, collective grace, and cultural sincerely has not been so strong at most schools I have encountered.

Second, it was also clear that USJ was a school that valued academic rigor and did an outstanding job preparing students for college. The faculty and staff were exceptional, the arts program was extraordinary, and the athletic program was remarkably successful. Once I visited the lower school, I knew for certain that this was the school where I wanted my three children to be educated.

Finally, I should note that Jackson has an allure of its own – and I’m not just talking about the Rockabilly Hall of Fame! While I love Atlanta, and it will always be my “hometown,” I didn’t relish the idea of raising my children in the urban/suburban sprawl of 4 million people. There is a lot to be said about living and raising a family in a small town and having your children immersed in what might be called “small-town values.” Plus, Jackson is large enough to offer many of the amenities normally associated with the “big city.”

In short, from an outsider’s view, Jackson appears to be a pretty darn good place to be. In fact, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than at the University School of Jackson in Tennessee. I am excited at the prospect of my family becoming fully immersed in this exceptional community.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Best Practices in Economics Teaching

This was a paper that was written for Cobb County Schools in 2006. I was asked to post this.

Resource Packet for Best Practices in Economics


In March of 2005, the National Summit on Economic and Financial Literacy was held in Washington, D.C. This conference produced a report from the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE). Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education and in part by corporate sponsors (NCEE, 2006), the NCEE is the preeminent economic education advocacy organization in the country. As called upon by President George W. Bush and the U.S. No Child Left Behind legislation, the core goal of this summit was to work towards a full integration of economics into the K-12 curriculum in order to achieve economic literacy in the United States (NCEE, 2005, 2006).

The literature indicates that the most effective way to increase student knowledge and achievement in economics is through teacher training (NCEE, 2005; Schober, 1984; M. C. Schug & Walstad, 1991; Walstad & Soper, 1988). Perhaps the second most effect way to teach economics that is promoted in the literature is the adherence to standards-based teaching practices (Banaszak & Brennan, 1983; Meszaros, 1997; Morton, Buckles, Miller, Nelson, & Prehn, 1992; NCEE, 2005, 2006; Niss, Brenneke, & Clow, 1979; Saunders, Bch, Calderwood, & Hansen, 1993; M. C. Schug & Walstad, 1991; Stern, 2005). However, since all Georgia schools will be adhering to the Georgia Performance standards, and all teachers must be certified as “highly qualified” under No Child Left Behind, this paper will address specific implementation of the “best practices” which well-trained teachers can use in their classroom. Those best practices are: (a) infusion of economics throughout the curriculum, (b) activity-based and experienced-based learning, and (c) the use of technology as an instructional tool.

Infusion of Economics throughout the Curriculum

Research has consistently illustrated that integrating economic study throughout the curriculum is an effective way of teaching economics to K-12 students. At the elementary level, a number of authors have suggested using children’s literature to engender greater economic understanding (Day et al., 1997; Hendricks, Nappi, Dawson, & Mattila, 1986; Kehler, 1998; M. C. Schug, 1994; VanFossen, 2003). It is widely assumed by teachers that elementary age students do not have the cognitive capacity to understand economic concepts, but the literature has consistently refuted that assertion (M. Schug & Birkey, 1985; M. C. Schug, 1994; M. C. Schug & Walstad, 1991; VanFossen, 2003). VanFossen (2003) identifies three research-based reasons to employ children’s literature to teach economics. First, he says that “literature is a motivational strategy for students” (p. 91). Second, VanFossen indicates that children’s literature deals with economic issues that are relevant to and have connections with students’ daily lives (Day et al., 1997). Third, VanFossen maintains that teaching economics through literature has the practical benefit of teaching two subjects concurrently in what has become “crowded” elementary school curriculum (Hendricks, Nappi, Dawson, & Mattila, 1986). In short, the use of children’s literature to teach economics appears to be an effective strategy to teach children abstract economic concepts, while making those concepts accessible and enjoyable (VanFossen, 2003). Infusing economic principles into children’s literature would cost very little in term of time or money. Both Teaching Economics Using Children’s Literature and Learning Economics through Children’s Stories are both resources that are readily available and complete with lessons and resources that an elementary teacher could utilize without detracting from the reading curriculum in any way.

At the middle and high school levels, economics can, likewise, be effectively infused into other courses. Economic topics and concepts can especially be integrated into other social studies courses (Evensen & Jones; Morton, Buckles, Miller, Nelson, & Prehn, 1992). As the NCEE (2005) has pointed, teaching history, government, or sociology without an investigation of economic theory or economic motivation does not do justice to the forces that have shaped history and human interaction. Moreover, while there is scant research on the use of young adult literature to infuse economic concepts, there is certainly no reason why the same justification that applies to the use of literature for elementary age students would not prove equally applicable to middle and high school aged students.

Simulations and Experienced-Based Learning. Activity-based and experienced-based learning have been given thorough treatment in the literature concerning economic education (Alden, 2004; Brewer & Jozefowicz., 2006; Cassuto, 1980; Goosen, Jensen, & Wells, 2001; Kourilsky, 1982; Lengwiler, 2004; J. Lopus & Placone, 2002; J. S. Lopus, Morton, & Willis, 2003; M. C. Schug & Walstad, 1991; Vargha, 2004; Wentland, 2004). However, the literature has not consistently demonstrated the effectiveness of these instructional methods (Evensen & Jones; Maxwell, Mergendoller, & Bellisimo, 2005; Wentland, 2004). There are three reasons that could explain these mixed results. First, the implementation of these broad categories of teaching methodology varies widely. Second, as is true with any educational research, varying contexts and settings (socio-economic status of the students and teacher quality, for example) makes control and scientific study a difficult task. Third, it has been suggested that the vast majority of high school economics course rely primarily on lecture (Strober & McGoldrick, 1998; Wentland, 2004). That is, even if economics classes do employ varied methods, it is difficult to control for the positive learning effects of direct instruction.

Activity-based learning.1 There are a number of research-based programs available to teachers who wish to engage students in activity-based learning. While varying in content and style, the basic idea behind activity based learning, is what Marilyn Kourilsky (1982) describes as engaging the students in “personal, as opposed to vicarious experiences” and “active, rather than passive roles in the learning situation” (p. 40). Kourilsky goes on to assert “…that learning is enhanced when students participate in…actual decision-making in which they will bear the consequences” (p. 40). Kourilsky’s program, in particular, has support in the literature (Cassuto, 1980; M. C. Schug & Walstad, 1991). Of note is Kourilsky’s mini-society program, in which children in 3rd through 6th grade build their own classroom society and grapple with economic issues their society faces. Kourilsky also has programs for grades K-2 and grades 9-12.
Similar activity-based models of teaching and learning are prevalent in the literature. Lynda D. Vargha (2004) gives examples of four different student-based, problem-based economics activities that have been found to be effective with middle school students. In this method, the students are given an economic problem to solve as a whole or in small groups (usually of 3 to 4 students). For example, students learn the concept of the allocation of scarce resources by bargaining over candy that is randomly distributed by the teacher. Another recent study points to the possible benefits of problem-based learning. Maxwell, Mergendoller, and Bellisimo (2005) have illustrated that problem-based learning, when controlling for student characteristics, showed aggregate (but small) increases in learning outcomes in high school economics classes. Again, the problem with such studies is attempting to isolate the effect of teacher quality from the student learning gains. Anecdotally, though, activity-based methods appear to engage all students, from the gifted, to students with special needs, to ESL students (J. S. Lopus, Morton, & Willis, 2003). Furthermore, Lopus, Morton, and Willis (2003) maintain that activity-based economic education increases students’ “long term retention” (p. 88), their ability to do well on high-stakes testing, and their ability to move more quickly to higher-level application. From a pedagogical standpoint, Lopus, Morton, and Willis (2003) also point to the curricular flexibility of activity-based learning, its reach across the school curriculum, and its inherently fun nature.

Writing in economics. A final example of activity-based learning in economics is the use of writing. A recent study by Brewer & Jozefowicz (2006) points to the benefits of having students write journals and reflection papers in economics courses. Brewer and Jozefowicz find that such writing assignments “help students realize that economics is directly pertinent to their daily lives” (p.202) and to force students to use and apply economic terminology. In other studies, journaling and writing assignment have been shown to better connect students to their own learning process and help students better frame what they know and what they do not know (Ferrario, 1999; Shulman, 1993). Additionally, writing about economics allows students to become more actively engaged in their learning (Crowe & Youga, 1986; Field, Wachter, & Catanese, 1985).

The Use of Technology as an Instructional Tool

In all disciplines, there has been a movement to more fully integrate technology into the classroom. The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) calls for increased “student academic achievement through the use of technology” ("The facts", 2004). The act also calls for the education of children in technological skills and for the full integration of technology into the curriculum of schools. NCLB calls for technological literacy for every child by the time they reach the 9th grade ("Educational technology", 2004). Therefore, using technology in the classroom serves the dual purpose of teaching economic principles and adhering to the NCLB legislation.

Overall, the literature suggests that technology integration can alter pedagogy and teaching methods. The literature further suggests that there can be a positive relationship between use of educational technology and student performance (Christmann, Badgett, & Lucking, 1997; Dwyer, Ringstaff, & Sandholtz, 1991; Van Dusen & Worthen, 1995; Waxman, Connell, & Gray, 2002). More specifically, the literature points to technology as an effective instructional tool for the teaching of economics (Bolton, 2005; Goffe & Sosin, 2005; Lengwiler, 2004; J. Lopus & Placone, 2002; Risinger, 1997; Robinson & Davis, 1999; Schmidt, 2003). It should be noted, however, that while there are studies which show a statistically significant and positive link between the use of technology and student learning outcomes, almost every study with a statistically significant link (p< .05) also has a small effect size (Phillipps, 2004).2 Regardless, the economics education literature is nearly unanimous in the belief that technology helps students learn economics. In fact, it has been asserted that the teaching of economics has been more significantly impacted by technology than any other discipline (Robinson & Davis, 1999). By using technological simulations, abstract concepts and models become real, graphs can be manipulated, and markets can be observed (Bolton, 2005; Goffe & Sosin, 2005; Robinson & Davis, 1999). Moreover, as mentioned by Kourilsky in regard to simulations, there is a tangible benefit to students being able to see the direct consequences of their economic decisions. There are a number of practical strategies cited in the literature that allow teachers to use technology to teach economics. One use of technology that has been adopted widely throughout the country is the use of stock market games. These games help students learn how this important financial market works and give them real-time experience in making economic decisions (Kagan & Mayo, 1995; J. Lopus & Placone, 2002; Weiser & Schug, 1992; Wood & et al., 1992). Another use of technology involves having students use the internet to research economic information that they can bring back to the classroom for discussion or debate (Robinson & Davis, 1999). Additionally, there is a research-based monetary policy simulation game available that allows students to pretend they are the chairman of a central bank. Students can see the macroeconomic effects of monetary policy, and can even be fired from their job for bad policy decisions (Lengwiler, 2004). In short, the proliferation of technology for the teaching of economics is vibrant and growing. Moreover, that technology is getting easier for students and teachers to use (Robinson & Davis, 1999). Effective economics teachers should certainly take the time investigate how technology might enhance their economics classroom.
The economic literacy of our students is important to the success of our nation (NCEE, 2006; Schug, 1991; NCEE, 2005). In fact, a lack of economic knowledge has consistently been linked to many of the problems facing consumers in America today (Schug & Reinke, 2003). The best practices of infusion of economics throughout the curriculum, activity-based and experienced-based learning, and the use of technology as an instructional certainly hold the promise of helping students learn and apply economic principals to their daily lives. Too, the use of these practices may help make students’ education more meaningful and enriching.


Alden, L. (2004). The wage is right! Social Studies, 95(2), 67-70.

Banaszak, R. A., & Brennan, D. C. (1983). Teaching economics: Content and strategies. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley.

Bolton, R. E. (2005). Computer simulation of the Alonzo household location model in the microeconomics course. Journal of Economic Education, 31(1), 59-76.

Brewer, S. M., & Jozefowicz., J. J. (2006). Making economic principles personal: Student journals and reflection papers. Journal of Economic Education, 37(2), 202-216.

Cassuto, A. E. (1980). The effectiveness of the elementary school mini-society program. Journal of Economic Education, 7(2), 59-61.

Christmann, E., Badgett, J., & Lucking, R. (1997). Progressive comparison of the effects of computer-assisted instruction on the academic achievement of secondary students. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 29(4), 325-338.

Crowe, D., & Youga, J. (1986). Using writing as a tool for learning economics. Journal of Economic Education, 17(3), 218-222.

Day, H., Foltz, M. A., Heyse, K., Marksbary, C., Sturgeon, M., & Reed, S. (1997). Teaching economics using children's literature. New York: National Council on Economic Education.
Dwyer, D. C., Ringstaff, C., & Sandholtz, J. H. (1991). Changes in teachers' beliefs and practices in technology-rich classrooms. Educational Leadership, 48(8), 45-53.

Educational technology fact sheet. (2004). Retrieved November 1, 2004, 2004, from

Evensen, K., & Jones, R. (December 2002). Teaching methods in economics education. Paper presented at the Annual Research Forum, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The facts about 21st century technology, no child left behind: How technology can work well in schools. (2004). Retrieved November 1, 2004, 2004, from

Ferrario, L. S. (1999). Writing to learn: Using journals across the curriculum. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 10(3), 23-31.

Field, W. J., Wachter, D. R., & Catanese, A. V. (1985). Alternative ways to teach and learn economics: Writing, quantitative reasoning, and oral communication. Journal of Economic Education, 16(3), 213-218.

Goffe, W. L., & Sosin, K. (2005). Teaching with technology: May you live in interesting times. Journal of Economic Education, 36(3), 278-291.

Goosen, K. R., Jensen, R., & Wells, R. (2001). Purpose and learning benefits of simulations: A design and development perspective. Simulation & Gaming, 32(1), 21-39.

Hendricks, R., Nappi, A., Dawson, G., & Mattila, M. (1986). Learning economics through children’s stories. New York: Joint Council on Economic Education.

Kagan, G., & Mayo, H. (1995). Risk-adjusted returns and stock market games. Journal of Economic Education, 26(1), 39-50.

Kehler, A. (1998). Capturing the "Economics imagination": A treasury of children's books to meet content standards. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 11(2), 26-29.

Kourilsky, M. (1982). Experienced-based learning. In W. H. Peterson (Ed.), Economic education: Investing in the future (pp. 38-53). Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press.

Lengwiler, Y. (2004). A monetary policy simulation game. Journal of Economic Education, 35(2), 175-183.

Lopus, J., & Placone, D. (2002). Online stock market games for high schools. Journal of Economic Education, 33(2), 192.

Lopus, J. S., Morton, J. S., & Willis, A. M. (2003). Activity-based economics. Social Education, 67(2), 85-89.

Maxwell, N. L., Mergendoller, J. R., & Bellisimo, Y. (2005). Problem-based learning and high school macroeconomics: A comparative study of instructional methods. Journal of Economic Education, 36(4), 315-331.

Meszaros, B. (Ed.). (1997). Voluntary national content standards in economics. New York: The National Council on Economic Education.

Morton, J. S., Buckles, S. G., Miller, S. L., Nelson, D. M., & Prehn, E. C. (1992). Teaching strategies: High school economics. New York: Joint Council on Economic Education.

NCEE. (2005). Executive summary. Paper presented at the National Summit on Economic and Financial Literacy, Washington, D.C. .

NCEE. (2006). National Council on Economic Education. Retrieved June 23, 2006, from

Niss, J. F., Brenneke, J. S., & Clow, J. E. (1979). Strategies for teaching economics: Basic business and consumer education (secondary). New York: Joint Council on Economic Education.

Patten, M. L. (2004). Understanding research methods: An overview of the essentials (4th ed.). Glendale, CA: Pyrzack Publishing.

Phillipps, S. D. (2004). Laptop computers in the classroom: A study for the Walker School (pp. 1-22): University of West Georgia.
Risinger, C. F. (1997). Teaching economics: New approaches to a familiar subject. Eric/chess. Candian Social Studies, 31(4), 193.

Robinson, W., & Davis, J. E. (1999). Technology, the economics profession, and pre-college economic education. Journal of Education, 181(3), 77-90.

Saunders, P., Bch, G. L., Calderwood, J. D., & Hansen, W. L. (1993). Master curriculum guide in economics. New York: the National Council on Economic Education.

Schmidt, S. J. (2003). Active and cooperative learning using web-based simulations. Journal of Economic Education, 34(2), 151-167.

Schober, H. M. (1984). The effects of inservice training on participating teachers and students in their economics classes. Journal of Economic Education, 15(4), 282-295.

Schug, M., & Birkey, C. J. (1985). The development of children's economic reasoning. Theory and Research in Social Education, 13(1), 31-42.

Schug, M. C. (1994). How children learn economics. International Journal of Social Education, 8(3), 25-35.

Schug, M. C., & Reinke, R. (2003). Why don't people save when they know they should? Social Education, 67(2), 79-83.

Schug, M. C., & Walstad, W. B. (1991). Teaching and learning economics. In J. P. Shaver (Ed.), Handbook of research on social studies teaching and learning (pp. 411-419). New York: Macmillan.

Shulman, G. M. (1993). Using the journal assignment to create empowered learners: An application of writing across the curriculum. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 49, 89-104.

Stern, B. S. (2005). Debunking the myth: The social studies and rigor. International Journal of Social Education, 20(1), 52-58 .

Strober, M., & McGoldrick, K. (1998). Service-learning in economics: A detailed application. Journal of Economic Education, 29(4), 365-376.

Van Dusen, L. M., & Worthen, B. R. (1995). Can integrated instructional technology transform the classroom? Educational Leadership, 53, 28.

VanFossen, P. J. (2003). Best practice economic education for young children? It's elementary! Social Education, 67(2), 90-94.

Vargha, L. D. (2004). Buyer beware! Economics activities for middle school students. Social Studies, 95(1), 27-32.

Walstad, W. B., & Soper, J. C. (1988). What is high school economics? Tel revision and pretest findings. Journal of Economic Education, 19(1), 24-36

Waxman, H. C., Connell, M. L., & Gray, J. (2002). A quantitative synthesis of recent research on the effects of teaching and learning with technology on student outcomes. Retrieved October 21, 2004. from

Weiser, L. A., & Schug, M. C. (1992). Financial market simulations: Motivating learning and performance. Social Studies, 83(6), 244-247.

Wentland, D. (2004). A guide for determining which teaching methodology to utilize in economic education: Trying to improve how economic information is communicated to students. Education, 124(4), 640-648.

Wood, W. C., & et al. (1992). The stock market game: Classroom use and strategy. The Journal of Economic Education, 23(2), 236-246.


1This term is adapted for this paper to encompass any learning activity which has the characteristics defined by Kourilsky (1982). Kourilsky actually refers to these instructional methods as “ experience-based learning” (p. 38).

2 According to Patten (2004), “Effect size refers to the magnitude (i.e., size) of a difference when it is expressed on a standardized scale” (p. 130). To put it colloquially, a finding may be statistically significant, that is, the finding might in all likelihood due to the treatments imposed on the subjects, but effect size can compare studies which used different measurement scales and tell us how large the difference between two groups actually is. For example, a researcher could find a difference to be significant, but the size of the difference might be relatively small. One of the most common measurements of effect size is Cohen’s d. Under this scale a value of d of .20 would be considered “small,” a value of d of .50 would be considered “medium,” a value of d of .80 would be considered “large,” a value of d of 1.10 would be considered “very large,” and a value of d of 1.40 or larger would be considered “extremely large” (Patten, 2004). Effect size can be particularly useful in meta-analysis, in which previous results are statistically combined from diverse studies on a particular topic (Patten, 2004).


Economics Best Practices Resources

Korilsky’s Mini-society Economics Activity

National Council on Economic Education

Economics in Action 15: Greatest Hits for Teaching High school Economics (2003). New York: NCEE.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Federal Reserve

The Census Bureau

Teaching Economics Using Children’s Literature

The Wage is Right! Simulation: Alden, L. (2004). The wage is right! Social Studies, 95(2), 67-70.


Ask Dr. Econ

Junior Achievement Resources for the Classroom

Stock Market Games
The Stock Market Game:

Monetary Policy Simulation Game:

Other Economics Simulations

Economics network:
Informatist Open Economics Game:
Virtual Bank, Farm, Developing Country, Factory, and Economy:
Perfect Competition:


Lemonade Stand:
Coffee Tycoon:

Primary Source Resources:

American Historical Association Teaching Methods:
Berkeley Digital Library sunSITE Digital Collection:
Collaborative Digitization Programs in the United States:
Craver, K. W. (1999). Using internet primary sources to teach critical thinking skills in history. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Digital Library of Georgia:
Documenting the American South (@ UNC-Chapel Hill):
Historical Newspapers:
Levstik, L. S., & Barton, K. C. (2000). Doing history: Investigating with children in elementary and middle schools. Retrieved July 3, 2006, from -- also available in hardcover.
Library of Congress American Memory Web Site:
Making of America @ Cornell University:
Making of America @ University of Michigan:
New York Public Library Digital Library:
Smithsonian National Museum of American History – You Be the Historian:
The History Channel Speech and Video:
The Learning Page: Library of Congress -- Especially for Teachers:
Veccia, S. H. (2004). Uncovering our history: Teaching with primary sources. Chicago: ALA.
Smithsonian Lesson Plans:
Historical Picture Collections:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Leadership Speech

This is a speech that I gave last year on leadership. Feel free to post comments on my philosphy expressed below.

It is patently obvious that society has become increasingly complex. Never in the history of mankind have we been bombarded with so much information so quickly. Nor, in the history of mankind, have we been faced with such quick, irregular, and non-linear change. In such an environment, sophisticated leadership is more important than ever.

Today, the leader is faced with a quandary: Failure to act when everything else is changing around you can lead to the death of an organization or a movement. On the other hand, acting too quickly, without proper information, can also be lethal. As Author Robert Steinberg has said: "The essence of intelligence would seem to be in knowing when to think and act quickly, and knowing when to think and act slowly” (cited in Fullan, p. x).

So, the question is “how does one lead in what Michael Fullan has deemed “’a culture of change’”? I would argue that, too often, the leaders we emulate are “take charge” individuals who exemplify the attitude expressed by U.S. Patriot, Thomas Payne of “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” They are leaders like Winston Churchill, who can energize a nation in times of war or Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who can lead a nation to reform through forcible means. To this end, Leadership guru Ronald Heifetz (1994) has accused us of looking for the wrong kind of leaders, especially in times of crisis:

In a crisis…we call for someone with answers, decisions, strength, and a map of the future, someone who knows where we ought to be going – in short someone who can make hard problems simple…Instead of looking for saviors, we should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face problems for which there are not simple, painless solutions – problems that require us to learn new ways p. 21).

These kinds of superhuman, charismatic, and energetic leaders to which Heifetz refers can be more damaging than beneficial. They lead us to sporadic progress and provide us with examples which very few of us can copy. Most of us cannot be like Winston Churchill. In fact, the British people were wise enough to realize that a leader who is effective in wartime may not be effective in times of peace and recovery. Mr. Churchill was not re-elected in 1945, immediately after World War II.

Likewise, these times do not call for leaders like Kemal Ataturk, who rule by decree. Yes, if you are strong enough and intimidating enough, people will do what you say. But such leadership does not foster commitment in others – it merely achieves compliance. Compliance does not lead to real change or a real sense of responsibility among people in organizations.

No, the complexity of our time does not call for demagogues, nor does it call for superheroes. Leadership, today, depends on individuals who can help get others to confront problems that have not been solved and which don’t have easy solutions – simply because real change depends on everyone, not a single, extraordinary individual.

In my view, the able leader is one who considers the opinions of his followers. Yes, leaders must have the inner strength and self-confidence to step into the unknown and persuade others to follow. However, this bold self-assurance must be tempered with a “decent doubt” – a humility to admit to being wrong and to acknowledge that others have good ideas – perhaps even better than one’s own. Leaders are not afraid of the strengths of others. The great industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, explicated this in his epitaph: “Here lies a man who attracted better people into his service than he was himself.” In fact, it could be said that the greatest task of a leader is encouraging and recognizing the accomplishments of others and embracing dissent. Any leader who does not put dissenters in his or her inner circle is probably doomed to groupthink mentality and assured of failure.

Finally, an effective leader comprehends that he has a much greater responsibility than self-service and self-aggrandizement. An effective leader acts with moral purpose, by this I mean –acting with the intention of making a positive difference in the lives of employees, customers, and society as a whole. A leader appreciates that he must sacrifice for the good of others and that his welfare is undeniably tied to the welfare of every individual in his community or organization. A leader endorses the notion of abolitionist Frederick Douglas that, “It is better to be part of a great whole than to be the whole of a small part.”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time: The chief enemy of educational change

Time…even Einstein had a hard time explaining what it was. Despite our inability to define time, we can measure it more accurately than just about any quantity in the universe. No, we can’t define what it is, yet we all know we do not have enough of it, we want more of it, and we are willing to pay dearly for it. I’m coming to see time as the most crucial factor in educational reform.

In talking about restructuring, Neuman (2003) states that time is the most critical commodity when providing high-quality pre-kindergarten programs. We must catch “at risk” students early enough, in a full-day and full-year circumstance, in order to “close the achievement gap.” Fashola (2004) deals with the notion of time in a different way, pointing to program effectiveness, in part, depending upon faculty development. Of course, faculty development takes time out of the school day. In addition, true school reform may well take up to ten years to fully implement, and I would add, that the faculty needs to be involved in that process for a good bit of the time. Of course, too, time is a factor in the public schools' implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, as the patience that may be needed by the state and national governments will likely not be there to see any real improvement.

Even before I entered my doctoral program, I never felt I had enough time in the day to get things done. Every morning, I compile a list of items I hope to get to by the end of the day, and rarely do I get three-quarters of the way through that list. Whenever I read about comprehensive school reform measures, I always think about whether or not I’d be able to implement these plans in a school which I administrate. In fact, thinking about taking on one of those reform models makes my chest tighten with anxiety. The issue is not a matter of work or effort, but rather of time. I have no idea when I would find the time to implement any comprehensive and meaningful reform unless I were stripped of most of my other duties.

Similarly, with the central importance of faculty development in school improvement, I wonder how many systems would truly be willing to embrace, not just the financial burden of faculty development, but actually releasing teachers permanently from duties and classes so that they might have the time to embark upon some type of self-improvement process. Truly, when I think about my own harried days and the frenetic pace of most of our teachers, I believe that we might see remarkable improvement in the level of instruction if we simply gave teachers three classes and let them spend the rest of the time working to improve.

My wife currently teaches on “the block.” As a foreign language teacher, she misses the immersion that she used to have over the course of the year, but she sees a great benefit in a reduced class load. In a given class, she has more time to work through issues and student questions. Moreover, her extra time during the day allows her time to be creative. I don’t know what research there is to support this, and I know that one of the criticisms of block scheduling is that most teachers are not properly trained to use the increased length of the classes. However, that seems to reinforce my point above – that school systems are not willing to give teachers time to enact meaningful change.

It does irritate me to no end, though, that the the politicians and policy-makers have so little interest in an issue as big as time. Instead, they concern themselves with issues such as curriculum, with little regard as to whether they’ve given teachers the proper amount of time to do anything about it. Now, with the high-stakes testing movement in full swing, how many systems have spent considerable time making sure that teachers don’t abandon their curriculum and simply “drill and kill” to increase test scores? Or, I guess one could ask if many schools even care if teachers abandon the curriculum, as long as performance indicators look impressive to outside observers.

In my perfect educational world, first, we would make sure the proper time is spent with children in pre-kindergarten programs. Much more money would be spent on those programs, and we certainly wouldn’t see the budget slashing that’s going on currently in Georgia Pre-K. Secondly, teachers would teach only two to three classes a day (and as a side note, classes would be held to around 15-17 kids), and the rest of the time would be devoted to collaborative planning, literature review, research, and student evaluation. Teachers and administrators would be given time away from the classroom during the school year, and year-long sabbaticals would be encouraged. Of course, all of that also takes another abstract, precious commodity: money. However, the reality is that money shouldn’t be an inhibiting factor in the wealthiest nation in the world which claims to value education.

At Walker, our teachers do not have three classes -- they have five. However, one of the best aspects of the school is the money and time devoted to faculty development. Teachers are encouraged to get out of their classrooms, and I don't know of another school which provides such lavish financial resources for faculty development. Generally, too, teachers' student load is much, much smaller than would be afforded in public school. This, I believe, does result in teachers having to spend less time grading and affords more time for planning, creativity, and reflection. I would argue that it's not merely that students get more attention in smaller classes, but the teachers have more time to develop a quality learning environment.

Regardless, I know one thing: when I get incredibly stressed, it is usually because of a lack of time. There is no doubt in my mind that the stress that time causes makes me a much less effective educator. Give me more time, and I guarantee you that I will do more for our children.

Neuman, S.B. (2003). From rhetoric to reality: The case of high-quality compensatory prekindergarten programs. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(4), 286 – 291.

Fashola, O. S. (March 2004). Being an informed consumer of quantitative educational research . Phi Delta Kappan, 88, 532-538.