By guest blogger Madeline Will
U.S. students' understanding of personal finance might be average when compared with their peers overseas, as results from an international test showed last week, but some states and nonprofits are aiming to strengthen the teaching of financial in American schools.
Last month, the state board of education in Florida adopted a financial-literacy strand to its social studies standards. The state used the Council for Economic Education's K-12 National Standards for Financial Literacythe first state in the country to do so. The council's standards were developed by a team of economists, Federal Reserve education specialists, and financial education researchers, and then reviewed by a committee of Florida teachers and education experts and modified to meet state requirements.
The standards focus on six areas related to personal finance: earning income, buying goods and services, using credit, saving, financial investing, and protecting and insuring. Nan Morrison, the president and CEO of the Council for Economic Education, said the organization is working with other states to adopt the standards.
The new results on financial literacy from the Program of International Student Assessment, or PISA, showed that that only 9.4 percent of U.S. 15-year-olds were able to correctly answer the test's most difficult questionssuch as on topics like loan refinancing. And more than one in six U.S. students did not reach the baseline of proficiency in financial literacy. Over at Inside School Research, Sarah D. Sparks provides a detailed look at the results.
Education Week reported earlier this year that some states have been making an effort to beef up how much financial literacy is taught in schools. According to a February report from the Council of Economic Education, 43 states have K-12 standards that include personal-finance education. But just 35 states' standards require that personal finance education is actually implemented in schools, the report showed.
"I think things are moving in the right direction overall, but slowly," Morrison told me in an interview. "Even if standards are adopted, it's not always required to be taught, and even if it's required to be taught, there isn't always funding to go with it."
Mike Bell, the executive director of the Florida Council on Economic Education, said in an email that no additional state funding has been supplied to support the adoption of the financial literacy standards. He noted that no new textbooks or additional teachers would be needed.
Several centers for economic education operated by the Florida council have held workshops for teachers to help them with their lesson plans, he said.
According to the Florida Department of Education, financial-literacy instruction is a graduation requirement for students who entered 9th grade in the 2013-14 academic year. Students must take an Economics With Financial Literacy course, which will now reflect the new financial literacy standards for high school.
Some of the benchmarks in the council's standards include:
- At the end of 4th grade, students should be able to create a budget for a set amount of allowance income, listing expenses and savings.
- At the end of 8th grade, students should be able to calculate what a worker and the worker's employer will pay in taxes, based on the worker's income and current Social Security tax rates.
- At the end of 12th grade, students should be able to explain what a credit score is and discuss both good and bad credit scores.