Mike Oliver

If you’ve been following the news around financial education legislation, you know that there’s a lot of momentum right now for personal finance education becoming law in many states across the country. At the time of this writing, thirty states mandate at least some financial training either as a standalone course, elective, or part of another subject.  

For districts charged with fulfilling these mandates, much must be done. This article provides you with best practices from two districts in Maryland and Ohio around building a systematic approach to fulfilling state mandates, creating and updating curriculum, training and supporting teachers and more. To dive even deeper into the topic and learn directly from fellow administrators, watch the Accelerate webinar on which this article is based.  

Understanding the Mandates

Financial literacy mandates can vary by state, but many states have implemented requirements for financial literacy education in schools. Some states require a specific course or set of courses related to personal finance, while others integrate financial literacy education into the existing curricula. It’s important for district leaders to understand the specific mandates in their state, and ensure that their financial literacy programs meet those requirements.

At the federal level, financial literacy mandates include the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC), which was established to improve financial literacy and education among Americans. FLEC coordinates efforts across federal agencies to improve financial literacy and education and provides resources and tools to help educators, families, and individuals improve their financial knowledge and skills.

A Systematic Approach – Questions to Ask When Creating a District Plan 

Learning Specialist for Social Studies & Physical Education in Akron Public Schools (OH) & Executive Director for the Ohio Council for the Social Studies, Adam Motter, states that creating a plan to fulfill new mandates begins with answering some important questions. 

  • Will this be offered during a specific year, or will students have scheduling flexibility? 
  • Will this course be offered as an elective, part of an existing required course, or a new standalone course? 
  • How will this impact course codes, scheduling, and graduation requirements? 
  • What resources should be used by teachers to meet the new standards? 
  • When and how should teachers be provided with professional learning on the topic? 

Once these questions are answered, Adam says that “you almost have a roadmap to move the work forward.” 

Where to House the New Personal Finance Curriculum? 

It’s all about location and licensure.  

Some states require financial literacy to exist in a specific curriculum like Social Studies, while others require a new standalone course, and still others leave it up to each individual school district. While Ohio requires financial literacy for graduation, Maryland does not; leading districts to create their own policy. Across the nation, personal finance is typically taught by educators licensed in Social Studies, Career & Technical Ed, as well as Family and Consumer Sciences.  

Creating a New Curriculum or Refreshing a Current One? 

For administrators in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, the focus was on updating an existing curriculum. According to Susan Bistransin, PGCPS Financial Education & Empowerment Coordinator, their curriculum hadn’t been revised since 2014. This provided district administrators with the opportunity to collaborate with teachers and community members as they: 

  • Unpacked the new standards 
  • Assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the current curriculum  
  • Found new curriculum sources 
  • Determined the training needs of their teachers 

With resources from multiple sources including EVERFI and the Maryland Council on Economic Education, PGCPS provided teachers with a user-friendly curriculum and many professional development opportunities. Susan credits the program’s success to the high level of support the district garnered from their teachers through this collaborative approach. 

“Sometimes teachers don’t always feel fully confident talking about different financial literacy topics with their students or don’t feel like they are an expert enough to do it. So, building confidence there is really important.” – Susan Bistransin 

How to Ensure Teachers are Prepared? 

One of the main pieces of feedback that PGCPS admin received from teachers was that they needed to feel comfortable with the content. Remember that these mandates are being put into place because students were graduating with little knowledge of finances leading to excessive debt, little to no savings, and more. Our educators are a part of that history. They must be given the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully instruct their students. It not only improves their ability to do their job and positively affect students but improves their own ability to make wise financial decisions moving forward.  

With that in mind, PGCPS provided teachers with an astounding 345 hours of professional development. EVERFI alone provided PGCPS with two formal PDs and eleven virtual chat & chew sessions that provided teachers with convenient and casual learning opportunities.  

“We’re thrilled with the amount of professional development that we’ve had. And EVERFI was a big part of that…[we] were able to get [teachers] comfortable with the content and with what they were doing. Support and encouragement for the teachers was a really big part of [our success].” – Susan Bistransin 

How to Ensure Teachers are Supported? 

In addition to the continuous professional development, both PGCPS and Akron Public Schools (in addition to 11,000 other districts) count on EVERFI to help with support. EVERFI provides every school district in the United States and Canada with a dedicated support team at no cost. The district support team provides administrators and teachers with:

  • Curriculum alignment 
  • Professional learning 
  • 24/7 tech support 
  • Data analysis and more 

These services and 15 free personal finance resources for students in grades 3-12 help to lighten the workload for administrators and teachers as they work to fulfill their state mandates.  

Best Practices for Financial Literacy Education

To ensure that financial literacy education is effective, districts should consider incorporating the following best practices:

Incorporating Financial Literacy Into the Existing Curriculum

Districts can integrate financial literacy education into subjects such as math, social studies, and language arts. This helps to ensure that students are exposed to financial concepts and skills across multiple subjects, and can see the relevance of financial literacy to their everyday lives.

Providing Age-Appropriate Financial Literacy Education

Financial literacy education should be tailored to the age and grade level of the students. Younger students may need basic concepts such as counting money and saving, while older students may benefit from more complex concepts such as budgeting and investing.

Using Interactive and Engaging Learning Methods

Financial literacy education should be interactive and engaging to keep students interested and motivated. This can include games, simulations, and role-playing exercises that help students to apply financial concepts to real-world scenarios.

Incorporating Real-Life Examples and Scenarios Into Financial Literacy Education

Providing examples and scenarios from real life helps to make financial literacy education more relevant and relatable to students. This can include examples of budgeting, investing, and saving that are applicable to their lives.

Providing Ongoing Reinforcement and Monitoring of Financial Literacy Education

Financial literacy education should not be a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process that is reinforced and monitored over time. This can include ongoing assessments, discussions, and activities that help students to continue building their financial knowledge and skills.

How to Measure Success 

At the most basic level, success equals meeting the standards by the state’s deadlines. But basic is not bar by which we should judge success. For Susan and Adam, success was also measured by teacher and student feedback in addition to documented learning gains. 

Thanks to EVERFI, both districts were provided with ongoing, district-level reporting in addition to the immediate grades provided to teachers in the classroom. EVERFI’s Impact Reports supplemented other data sources used by the districts providing leaders with a more holistic view of learning. EVERFI’s Impact Reports include: 

  • District and school usage of each of the 15 free personal finance resources 
  • Aggregated learning gains by lesson 
  • Attitudinal and behavioral data 

If you’d like to see your district’s unique learning data, connect with your district’s EVERFI support team. 

Putting It All Together 

When districts are tasked with creating a personal finance curriculum that is accessible, engaging, and compelling, it can be overwhelming. Fortunately, school districts are filled with dedicated and innovative leaders ready to rise to the occasion. By assembling the district’s internal expertise, learning from the experiences of districts who have already completed the journey, and using high school financial literacy courses provided by external partners like EVERFI, administrators have plenty of resources available to get started on this important assignment.  

Your district’s EVERFI Implementation Team is ready to help. If you are interested in learning more about EVERFI’s free essential skills resources and support, check-out our District webpage and schedule a call with your dedicated EVERFI Lead.