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Learning Matters

News tips about education from Indiana University

Dec. 4, 2006

Learning about economic and financial principles
What makes first generation Latino students continue their college studies?
The proposed ISTEP testing system

Learning about economic and financial principles is just as important as learning about language arts, math and science, said John Gibson, director of the Indiana University Northwest Center for Economic Education. The center trains area teachers on how to educate their students about economic and personal finance matters. During the past year, the center trained 312 teachers, more than triple the number taught in the previous year. Area teachers spent two weeks in a graduate-credit course learning economic and financial principles and how to apply them across K-12 curriculum, and also attended several all-day workshops on various other topics, Gibson said. Gibson emphasized that financial matters are an appropriate and vital topic for Northwest Indiana classrooms. A financially literate workforce, he said, is essential to the region's economic well-being. "Economic and financial principles can be taught in tandem with these subjects," Gibson said. "Economic and financial literacy are some of the most powerful tools we can give our children and communities. Regardless if young people decide to become nurses, teachers, doctors, lawyers or engineers, one thing is certain: they will have to manage their personal finances. If we can equip youngsters with the ability to manage cash, wisely use credit and invest for their futures, we can set them on a course to a financial independence. Educators can use everything from children's literature to math and science to teach the fundamental concepts of economic and financial literacy." The IU Northwest Center for Economic Education is housed in the School of Business and Economics, which is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Business Programs. The Center for Economic Education holds both state and national accreditations with the Indiana Council for Economic Education and the National Council on Economic Education. The ICEE recently named the center the best such program in the state and gave it a $3,500 award to promote financial literacy.

Gibson can be reached at or 219-980-6635.

Several environmental issues determine whether first generation Latino students will continue studying at their current college the next semester or year. According to research conducted by Vasti Torres, associate professor in the Indiana University School of Education and affiliate faculty member in Latino Studies, Latino students are more likely to remain at their higher education institution if they see their culture reflected at Latino cultural centers or among students, faculty and staff. Students who receive encouragement from teachers, mentors and family also are more likely to stay in school. "There is incredible diversity among Latino students, and I think that Anglos treat all Latinos the same. Among the Latino population you may have a student who was born outside the United States who is a first generation college student and another who was born within the United States. There is an incredible diversity when we say the term 'Latino.' Part of helping Latino students is understanding the diversity within the Latino population." One of the significant findings of the study is a strong correlation between the ability to perceive one's culture and encouragement. Those two items were strong influences on whether Latino students intend to persist -- or remain -- in their first year. To help Latino students, institutions of higher education need to be more proactive in reaching out to the population. The second action universities can take is to make sure that diverse cultures are represented in the environment, and to understand how the campus environment is infused in course offerings and student organizations. "Finally, I think I would say to involve the parents as part of the college experience for Latino students, especially first generation Latino students," Torres said.

Torres can be reached at or 812-855-8399.

The proposed ISTEP testing system would bring changes to Indiana schools and students in the next few years. In 2007, the Indiana State Board of Education will ask state lawmakers to approve a plan to move the ISTEP from fall to spring, and also to add new components to the test that should help shed light on the academic weaknesses of children as early as kindergarten. Terry Spradlin, associate director for education policy at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University, said that the comprehensive assessment plan adopted by the State Board of Education on Nov. 1 provides a new direction for state testing with the availability to teachers of diagnostic/formative assessments throughout the school year and accountability/summative assessments at the end of the school year. However, Spradlin said the implementation of the plan still requires buy-in and financial support from the Indiana General Assembly. If the plan is approved and funded, then it is important that schools, particularly high schools, have time to teach students the material that meets the new standards. The new comprehensive assessment plan calls for the replacement of the Graduation Qualifying Examination that high school sophomores take with Core 40 end-of-course assessments in English 10 and algebra I. Scores on the end-of-course assessments will be reported on student transcripts and used to qualify for diploma endorsements. Eventually the State Board of Education plan envisions the results of these assessments to be used in awarding the Core 40 diplomas. Spradlin said one reason for the change is that some members of the State Board of Education have a concern that ISTEP consumes too much instructional time. Also, some educational leaders want the test moved to spring to measure what students have learned during the school year. This move would allow administrators to make decisions about promotion and retention before the next school year begins. Spradlin offers caution, though. He said, "States with spring tests struggle to realize these objectives, and they are not getting the results back in time for summer school or in time to make decisions about promotion or retention." Spradlin said the State Board of Education plans to set specific deadlines for test results, and vendors submitting bids to administer the test would have to fulfill those terms. The State Board of Education is expected to request proposals from vendors who are interested in administering the new ISTEP in December.

Spradlin can be reached at or 812-856-4781.