Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Covering personal finance in the classroom

April 8, 2020

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One in five 15-year-olds in the U.S. don’t understand basic financial concepts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Photos of coins spilling out of a jar by Michael Longmire via Unsplash.

April is Financial Literacy Month, but personal finance education is a timely topic year-round (for instance, back to school, college admissions season, graduation season). The Council for Economic Education reports that 21 states now require high school students to take a class in personal finance to graduate (Florida recently dropped the requirement). 

Despite this, the National Center for Education Statistics revealed that 20 percent of U.S. 15 year-olds don’t understand basic money concepts. Since many of these students will be taking out student loans for college in just a few short years, not understanding the power of compound interest or the implications of a loan default could haunt them well into their adult lives.  

Here’s a look at questions to consider as you’re covering personal finance education. 

What’s being taught locally?

Does your state require grads to pass a personal finance class or take a test? If not, is personal finance or economics offered as an elective?

Are elementary or middle schools also including this information in their curriculum? Why or why not?

Do parents and students feel that these approaches are effective? Have any other local teachers been recognized in this arena?

What does the personal finance curriculum consist of?

What do these courses cover and how long do they last?

Where does the curriculum come from?

Are schools and teachers partnering with outside organizations such as nonprofits or credit unions?

Are any field trips or guest speakers involved? The New York Times ran an interesting feature several years ago about high schoolers going on a field trip to a local pawn shop

Who is doing the teaching?

In addition to talking to local teachers, principals, and curriculum people, you might also talk to outside organizations that develop financial literacy materials for schools or bring volunteers into classrooms to get their perspective. For instance, the National Endowment for Financial EducationNext Gen Personal FinanceJunior Achievement, and Jump$tart.

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