There are two Clayton County stories in the AJC today; one is about a food fight at Lovejoy High School that resulted in 10 arrests. The other — and the one that deserves our attention — is a feature story on the financial whiz kids at E.W. Oliver Elementary School in Riverdale.
Food fights are an unfortunate but not unusual occurrence in schools. A Georgia Stock Market Game team of public school fifth graders beating more than 3,800 teams of students –including high schools with economics classes, private schools and home-school programs — is unusual.
According to the AJC story, this is only the fourth time in 31 years an elementary school has won the contest. A team from Oliver Elementary has three of those wins: in 2007, 2008 and this year.
Many posters here take the position that excellence can’t be found in struggling urban systems, but this remarkable achievement attests that successes are happening and we ought to celebrate them more. That’s why I dislike blanket indictments of APS, DeKalb and Clayton, each of which can point to many successful schools and students.
Hats off to the teacher Mike Harrell and fifth-graders Jaylen Thompkins, Jacob Thomas and Kenny Chong. And please send investment advice. I could use it.
Not only did they best the competition statewide, they outperformed the U.S. stock market — all while managing their investments during the afterschool program at E.W. Oliver Elementary School in Riverdale.
The trio earned nearly $63,000 on an initial hypothetical investment of $100,000 in the 10-week contest that ended April 8. They amassed a portfolio of $162,945.20, outperforming the U.S. stock market during that period by 58 percent.
Their portfolio consisted mainly of one stock — not the strategy money managers advise for investing real money. They started with three stocks but wound up basically betting the farm on pulp paper company Mercer International. It worked.
“The stats for the stock were very high,” Jacob, 11, explained.
After tracking Mercer’s activity for a while, the team realized “it was capable of doing things it needed to do to raise the stock,” added Jaylen, also 11 and the veteran of the group with three prior contests under his belt.
A team at Gwinnett County’s Parkview High School, which has an economics program, came in second. A team at Mount Zion High School in Carroll County was third. Winners were honored Tuesday at the Georgia Freight Depot in downtown Atlanta.
Oliver Elementary seems an unlikely incubator of investing savvy. Nearly seven in 10 of its students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Some come from homes where parents struggle to hang onto a paycheck, let alone a portfolio.
On the other hand, Oliver is consistently recognized as a top performer in a school district working its way back to full accreditation after much-publicized governance problems. It has Clayton’s highest attendance rate. Its basketball team is county champ. PTA meetings draw a diverse crowd of Clayton State University faculty members, airport workers and blue-collar types.
“It’s an absolute combination of parental involvement, community support and total school expectation of excellence,” Principal Kathleen Truitt said. “There’s a constant sense of working toward being the very best. Good is not good enough, “ Truitt said.
Jaylen, Jacob and Kenny, 10, picked up their investing skills as an after-school pastime. The boys were among eight teams of 32 Oliver students who participated in this latest game.
The boys’ stock market adviser, Mike Harrell, a physical education teacher, said the game is mainly a way to introduce finance and money management to students who normally would not be exposed.
“I’m not very involved at all,” he said. “I advise on price ranges to look at and whether they have enough money to buy a stock, but they rely more on research and individual stock websites than they rely on me.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog