Student Opinion: Should All Schools Teach Financial Literacy? - Digital Promise Verizon Innovative Learning Schools

Student Opinion: Should All Schools Teach Financial Literacy?

Should All Schools Teach Financial Literacy? (Till Lauer/The New York Times)

April 28, 2021 | By Shannon Doyne

How well do you think you manage money? Has anyone ever taught you any money-management skills? In general, how “financially literate” do you think you are? For instance, do you know how to budget and save? How to set up a bank account? Apply for financial aid and college loans?

Does your school teach these skills already? If not, do you wish it did? Should passing a financial-literacy class be a requirement for graduating from high school?

In the featured article “Pandemic Helps Stir Interest in Teaching Financial Literacy,” Ann Carrns writes about the growing interest in teaching students personal financial skills in U.S. schools:

As of early 2020, high school students in 21 states were required to take a personal finance course to graduate, according to the Council for Economic Education, which promotes economic and personal finance education for students in kindergarten through high school. That was a net gain of four states since the council’s previous count two years earlier.

“We are making progress,” said Billy J. Hensley, president and chief executive of the National Endowment for Financial Education, a nonprofit group that promotes effective financial education.

“I do think the pandemic is bringing more attention to the topic,” he said, noting that after the financial crisis more than a decade ago there was also a flurry of financial literacy proposals in state legislatures.

An increasing number of studies support the effectiveness of financial literacy education when taught by well-trained teachers, said Nan J. Morrison, chief executive of the Council for Economic Education. And more teachers now say they feel confident teaching the material. A study released in March by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Montana State University found significant increases in teacher participation in professional development.

Still, the rigor of high school financial education varies. Just six states require high school students to complete a semester-long, stand-alone personal finance course, the council’s 2020 report found. Some states permit shorter courses or include the content as part of another class.

In states that don’t require financial instruction, some schools opt to teach it and do an excellent job, but others ignore the subject completely — and they tend to be schools in less affluent districts, Mr. Hensley said.

The article also outlines the specifics on what the curriculum might look like:

Many financial literacy advocates consider a full-semester course the gold standard for personal finance instruction. Rebecca Maxcy, director of the Financial Education Initiative at the University of Chicago, said many courses focused mainly on skills, like writing a check or filing taxes. While those lessons can be helpful, she said, it’s important for courses to include discussions of how personal values and attitudes about money influence behavior, as well as an examination of the financial systems and potential barriers that students will encounter in the world of money.

Questions like “Who benefits when you open a bank account?” can prompt meaningful discussions, she said.

Some curriculum options, however, offer more condensed, basic instruction.

Everfi, a digital instructional company, offers a free seven-session program for high school financial literacy. Students take interactive, self-guided lessons in topics like banking, budgeting and college financing.

Sidney Strause, a freshman at Marshall University in West Virginia, said she had taken Everfi’s course as a junior in high school. The lessons were assigned as part of another course she was taking, and typically took 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

“It taught me how to budget and save,” she said. “It’s crucial to adulthood.” Sometimes she would do the lessons at home and discuss them with her mother, she said, which led her mother to create a budget and set financial goals.

Students, read the entire featured article below, then tell us:

■ What, if anything, in this article resonates with you and your experiences with learning about money?

■ Do you think schools should offer courses on financial literacy? Should taking them be mandatory for graduation?

■ What topics should financial literacy instruction in schools cover? In what grade should students start learning about it?

■ One of the experts quoted in this piece says that it’s important for courses to include discussions of how personal values and attitudes about money influence behavior. What are your general attitudes toward money, and where do you think you learned these attitudes? For instance, how much does making money factor into your goals for a future career?

■ Why do you think that some people believe the interest in teaching students skills about managing money increased during the pandemic? In this time, did you experience or witness any events that made you wish you had some knowledge of personal finances — or that made you grateful for what you know?

■ Earlier this year, the price of GameStop stock soared when individual traders, including some teenagers, purchased many shares as a way to both make money and retaliate against large hedge funds that forecast the stock losing value. Did you learn about this situation as it happened? Did you participate? Did any of your teachers talk about it, and if so, what did they say?

FEATURED ARTICLE

Pandemic Helps Stir Interest in Teaching Financial Literacy
By Ann Carrns
April 2, 2021
The New York Times

Two dozen state legislatures are considering bills on financial-literacy education, an unusually high number, proponents say.

They attribute the interest to concern about the burden of student debt, as well as heightened awareness about income and economic inequality as a result of the pandemic.

“There’s a recognition that folks are being left behind,” said Tim Ranzetta, founder of Next Gen Personal Finance, a nonprofit group that creates free courses and funds training for high school teachers.

Next Gen compiled a list of bills submitted for consideration in 25 states. It’s unclear how many will pass, Ranzetta said.

As of early 2020, high school students in 21 states were required to take a personal-finance course to graduate, according to the Council for Economic Education, which promotes economic and personal-finance education for students in kindergarten through high school. That was a net gain of four states since the council’s previous count two years earlier.

“We are making progress,” said Billy Hensley, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education, a nonprofit group that promotes effective financial education.

“I do think the pandemic is bringing more attention to the topic,” he said, noting that after the financial crisis more than a decade ago, there was also a flurry of financial-literacy proposals in state legislatures.

An increasing number of studies support the effectiveness of financial literacy education when taught by well-trained teachers, said Nan Morrison, CEO of the Council for Economic Education. And more teachers now say they feel confident teaching the material. A study released in March by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Montana State University found significant increases in teacher participation in professional development.

Still, the rigor of high school financial education varies. Just six states require high school students to complete a semesterlong, stand-alone personal-finance course, the council’s 2020 report found. Some states permit shorter courses or include the content as part of another class.

In states that don’t require financial instruction, some schools opt to teach it and do an excellent job, but others ignore the subject completely — and they tend to be schools in less-affluent districts, Hensley said.

In the latest round of legislative proposals, some states are merely encouraging the teaching of financial skills while a few would make the subject a graduation requirement. Ohio, for instance, is considering a proposal that would require high school students to pass a half-credit class in personal finance in order to graduate. The class must be taught by a teacher trained in the subject matter.

The bill would also create a fund to help pay for training to teach the subject, said Ohio Sen. Steve Wilson, a Republican and former banking executive who co-sponsored the bill. He said he was hopeful that the bill would be voted out of committee this month.

“Kids come out of school having no clue about financial literacy,” Wilson said. “You go out into the world greatly disadvantaged.”

Many financial-literacy advocates consider a full-semester course the gold standard for personal finance instruction. Rebecca Maxcy, director of the Financial Education Initiative at the University of Chicago, said many courses focused mainly on skills, like writing a check or filing taxes. While those lessons can be helpful, she said, it’s important for courses to include discussions of how personal values and attitudes about money influence behavior, as well as an examination of the financial systems and potential barriers that students will encounter in the world of money.

Questions such as “Who benefits when you open a bank account?” can prompt meaningful discussions, she said.

Some curriculum options, however, offer more-condensed, basic instruction.

Everfi, a digital instructional company, offers a free seven-session program for high school financial literacy. Students take interactive, self-guided lessons in topics such as banking, budgeting and college financing.

Sidney Strause, a freshman at Marshall University in West Virginia, said she had taken Everfi’s course as a junior in high school. The lessons, assigned as part of another course she was taking, typically took 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

“It taught me how to budget and save,” she said. “It’s crucial to adulthood.”

Sometimes she would do the lessons at home and discuss them with her mother, she said, which led her mother to create a budget and set financial goals.

Several groups, including the Council on Economic Education, provide guidance on quality educational materials. The council publishes national standards and benchmarks; the University of Chicago’s Financial Education Initiative has created a list of characteristics for “high quality” financial education; and the JumpStart Coalition, a nonprofit group, maintains a list of educational programs.

Here are some questions and answers about financial literacy:

Q: Does requiring personal finance studies actually help students make good decisions about money?

A: While results vary, recent studies suggest that “well-implemented” state education mandates lead to a “clear improvement in financial behaviors,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Research from the National Endowment for Financial Education, for instance, found that required financial education could help students make smarter decisions about paying for college.

Q: Any ideas for talking about money with my children?

A: Maxcy of the Financial Education Initiative said that talking with a parent or trusted adult about money issues could be a powerful learning tool for students, but that it was often difficult for parents to start conversations. The program’s research led to the creation of a deck of 105 “Talking Cents” cards that pose simple questions to start a discussion. One example: “What career would you choose if all jobs paid the same amount of money?” Or “Describe an experience you had with a credit card, good or bad.” They’re available on the center’s website.

Q: How can I tell if my child’s school has personal-finance instruction?

A: Parents can search Check Your School, an initiative of the JumpStart Coalition, to see what their school offers.

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