Decatur High School

Freshmen tackle senior course

IB World School

Colleen Suratt, Carpe Diem staff

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On Tuesday, December 13, 2011, students enrolled in economics courses took their EOCT. Unlike previous years, it wasn’t just seniors taking the EOCT – Freshman students took it, as well. Starting this year, with the class of 2015, students will fulfill their economics credit as freshmen. “The motivating force behind the change in schedule was for the IB diploma program,” economics teacher Doug Altizer said. Current freshmen are on track to earn their IB diplomas, and in order to complete courses required for the IB diploma and courses required by the state, students must take economics as freshmen.However, according to Altizer, freshmen might not be ready to take economics. “A lot of it is really conceptual, and understanding a concept like macroeconomics or microeconomics and all the details that go with it is a little bit more challenging,” he said. Altizer also teaches psychology, which he can relate to freshmen’s understanding. “Psychology tells us that their frontal lobes aren’t fully developed, so conceptual ideas are harder for them. But even with that said, I’m optimistic that they will do okay.”

Freshmen were able to tackle the subject, some more than others. “I think that my higher-exposure freshmen, the kids who are coming in with more experiences and backgrounds in economics, will do well – these are the kids whose parents are stockbrokers or bankers,” he said. “The mid-level kids were okay. I felt like we did a good job with them, but it would have been nice to have a whole year with them.”

The 2011-2012 school year is the first to only offer economics as a one semester long course, debilitating some while freeing up schedules for others. Although students must learn the course in a crunched amount of time, the schedule allows teachers to learn from their mistakes and improve for the following semester. “With each passing year, we try to add hands-on activities that are successful and illustrative for the kids,” he said. But those types of hands on activities require quite a bit of class time and some debriefing time to actually make them worthwhile. So, our challenge year-after-year has been to integrate more hands on activities and cover the material.”

Although Altizer was successful in teaching economics to freshmen in such a short time period – nearly all of his students passed – he suggests that teaching the course to seniors is inherently better. “Seniors are ready for it in a different way,” he said. “It’s more meaningful to seniors, because they have more exposure to money in jobs and banking, and it’s easier for them to be engaged and interested. To some freshmen, economics seems obscure and unimportant, because they aren’t working, so it’s not in the forefront of their heads.”

Even so, it looks like teaching economics to freshmen will continue. “When you have lots and lots of square pegs that are trying to fit in round holes and vice-versa, which is what we do in Georgia with state requirements and individual school requirements, it’s not going to translate perfectly,” Altizer said. “We’ve got to be flexible, so I’m glad the freshmen were able to understand the course, at least for the most part.”

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Decatur High School
Freshmen tackle senior course