Chantilly Sure, a school might win the state championship in economics one or two times — but Chantilly High recently won it for the eighth time.
And team member Tim Reid, a senior, is the only student in the history of the Virginia Economics Challenge to repeat as a state champion, having been on his school’s 2013 and 2014 award-winning teams.
The event was the Adam Smith Division (advanced economics) of the 2014 Governor’s Challenge in Economics and Personal Finance. Reid’s teammates are senior Gopal Hari and juniors Drew Glinsman and Jack Skopowski, and their coach is AP economics teacher Joe Clement.
“I’m really proud of them,” said Clement. “They worked really hard, but I never had a doubt [about them]. I knew they’d do well because I knew what they were capable of. They’re very talented and bright — and the best part is that they’re all extremely nice people.”
More than 3,000 students participated in the preliminary rounds, with 161 qualifying for the day-long championship this spring at VCU. Chantilly made it to the national semifinals, but only the top four teams went to nationals — and Chantilly finished fifth.
Still, eight state championships in economics is no small achievement. To prepare, the students all took AP macro and microeconomics classes. Macroeconomics is about the U.S. economy and how international trade affects it; microeconomics examines companies, such as the soft-drink industry.
Those interested in being on Chantilly’s team took an online test and the top four scorers made the grade. Both micro and macro questions were on the test, plus current and international events.
For example, said Skopowski, “If the euro depreciates, what does that do to European exports to the U.S.?” There were also trivia questions, such as how many people are on the Federal Board of Governors.
When they took that test, though, they still hadn’t finished all the microeconomics curriculum, so they met after school with Clement to learn it. And they were thrilled to later make states.
“I was really excited to say I participated, even if we didn’t win,” said Glinsman. Skopowski said Chantilly’s reaching states each year is “probably owed a lot to Mr. Clement’s teaching, since that’s the only common denominator.” Glinsman said he’s the school’s only AP economics teacher and they all take that subject.
“It was a valuable experience and a good feeling to be part of the team,” said Skopowski.
“Anytime you can say you participated at state level, it’s a big honor,” added Hari. “And we actually won states, so it’s a big deal.”
At states, said Glinsman, they vied against 12 other teams from throughout Virginia. They began by each answering on paper 30 micro and macroeconomics questions in 40 minutes. The scoring was 10 points per right answer; 0, no answer and -5, wrong answer.
“Then there’s a 15-question, group test on international events and current affairs,” said Glinsman. “It’s written, but we could confer with each other.”
“It was harder than our previous tests because the answers were more technical and specific,” said Skopowski. “And you had to know more economic jargon to answer them.”
“I thought the international events/current affairs questions were harder because we had to learn them on our own,” said Glinsman. “We could reason through the economic questions.”
But Hari, disagreed. “I thought there was more pressure in the paper-and-pencil round than in the buzzer round,” he said. “Once we made it to the buzzer round, we were more relaxed.”
After the earlier scores are tallied, the two top teams go head-to-head in the buzzer round. “The moderator reads a question and either team can buzz in with the answer,” said Hari. “Several times, we buzzed in after he said just one word — and we were right. Mr. Clement told us that, if we knew where a question was heading after only one word, we were probably right.”
For example, said Hari, after a question starting with “A factory’s pollution,” he told Reid to buzz in and say “negative externality,” which was correct. Reid was the team captain so, although the members could all confer and buzz in, only he could say the answer.
“He was usually the fastest on the buzzer, anyway, because he’s on Chantilly’s It’s Academic team,” said Skopowski. “So that gave us a little advantage.” As for negative externality, Skopowski said it’s when someone not part of what causes pollution is adversely affected by it. So that whole question was: “A factory’s pollution and secondhand smoke are examples of what?”
Glinsman liked the buzzer round best because “I knew we could win from there. And we got off to an early lead, which pressured the other team to buzz in before they were ready. So we could relax and just finish.”
“My favorite part was holding up those [individual] trophies at the end, saying we were state champs, and enjoying the car ride home with everyone,” said Hari.
So what did Skopowski like best? “At lunch, we got chocolate chip cookies the size of a dinner plate, and it made the trip worthwhile,” he said. “Even if we didn’t win, I would have come for the cookies.”