Junior Achievement

Austintown Students Pilot New JA Program

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – The Junior Achievement Economics program is testing out a new way high school students learn its financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work-readiness curricula, by throwing out the textbook and moving towards an e-book.

“Junior Achievement in the 21st century is trying to meet the kids where they’re at with technology,” said Kimberly Urig, program and special events coordinator for Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley. “They want to do things like the Chromebook and trying to be more progressive about what we’re doing.”

The new technology-based program isn’t available to the public yet, but 11th- and 12th-grade students at Austintown Fitch High School have been using the program on their Chromebooks since the fall.

Jill Martin, a social studies teacher at Austintown, was the first teacher in the country to pilot the program with her economics class last semester.

“I was really honored to do that,” she said. “A lot of their other lessons now are computer-based lessons, so it wasn’t as much of a shock to them as it was to me going from a book to an online curricula. They’re doing well with it.”

Martin has been teaching with the JA program for 19 years out of the same textbook, she said, noting that revisions have been made to the book over the years.

“I was really excited to hear about this blended learning because all of our students have their own Chromebook, so they’re able to take that home with them and have access to the materials at their leisure,” she said. “When I heard about all the interactives that were added to it – all the video clips – I was excited about giving it a try.”

This semester, Martin is one of 10 teachers across the country testing the program, which is expected to rollout nationwide next school year.

On April 4 and 5, a JA USA representative attended her economics classes to get feedback from the students on the new program.

“The first thing one of the kids said is, ‘We need to have a search bar for the table of contents.’ That was outstanding feedback,” Urig said.

Another critique one of the students said of the program is, “The cases are at a middle school level, but the tests are at a high school level.”

“They had some solid, thoughtful feedback,” Urig said of the students. “JA USA will be using the feedback as they tweak the curricula for next year. They’re committed to doing this right.”

Having the program be technology based also makes it easier for the organization to make updates to the software when needed, versus having to print thousands of copies of new textbooks.

While the JA USA representative was at the school, she also took photos and video of the Austintown students working through a case study or project in the program. The photos and videos will be used as training materials for JA volunteers across the country to see how they can interact with their students in the new program once it’s rolled out.

Some of the projects students are working on are focused on supply and demand, micro/macro economics and the stock market.

Overall the students really enjoy using the new program on their Chromebooks, said Dylan Barnes, an 11th-grade student at Austintown.

“They’ve really enjoyed it and they said they’d recommend the class to other students,” Barnes said of his fellow students.

When asked what his favorite subject is that he learned so far, he said, principals of economics, “because it’s the core things you need to know. This is a class that I see I’ll use for the rest of my life.”

Martin would like to stick with the new program in her classroom because she said, “It’s more current, it has the technology built into it, which is necessary in today’s society to keep the student’s attention and it’s a good look at our economics system today.”

Pictured: Jill Martin, Austintown Fitch High School teacher, was the first teacher to pilot the new program for JA Economics.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.