School District Taking a K-12 Approach to Financial Literacy Education

financialliteracyAs a result of revisions to the Career and Professional Education (CAPE) Act passed by the Florida legislature in 2013, financial literacy will be included in high school graduation requirements starting in the 2016/2017 school year. Financial literacy will be taught as part of a required credit in Economics.

The Florida Department of Education adopted a new Financial Literacy Strand to be included with existing Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Social Studies (NGSSS). Based on the Council on Economic Education’s National Standards for Financial Literacy, the new NGSSS Social Studies – Financial Literacy Strand includes 6 new standards added for: Grade 4, Grade 8, and Grades 9-12.

The School District of Palm Beach County is dedicated to ensuring that all students are financially literate upon graduation, and is taking a K-12 approach to accomplish that task. In May 2014, the District secured a grant to support financial literacy education in elementary, middle and high schools. Through the grant, Aaron Standish, who had worked the previous thirteen years as a classroom teacher, was given the responsibility to serve as the K-12 Financial Literacy Coordinator. Standish functions as District liaison for community stakeholders interested in personal financial literacy education, helps evaluate and develop financial literacy curriculum and resources, and supports instruction and implements programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Aaron Standish, K-12 Financial Literacy Coordinator, trains 4th and 5th grade teachers on how to use My Classroom Economy, an experiential program designed to increase the financial capabilities of students by simulating a real functioning economy in the classroom.

Aaron summed up the importance of this education as follows, “Financial literacy education sets a strong foundation for students to become informed consumers who can have positive impacts in their communities, and it teaches essential skills crucial to success in life. It’s about changing money behaviors. Delaying immediate gratification, choosing to save or spend, and preparing for a ‘rainy day’ are just a few skills that should be taught early and reinforced often before students leave our schools. The School District of Palm Beach County is committed to giving students these tangible skills so they are able to make responsible financial decisions on a daily basis and well into the future.”

The Florida Department of Education defines financial literacy as including the “knowledge, understanding, skills, behaviors, attitudes and values that will enable a student to make responsible and effective financial decisions on a daily basis.” A recent study revealed that 75% of young Americans felt like financial mistakes they made early in life have had a negative impact on their quality of life, yet only 28% of those respondents received any sort of personal financial literacy education before graduating from high school.

Collaborations with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta – Miami branch and the Florida Atlantic University Center for Economic Education have helped our District offer 45 separate workshops, trainings, or meetings focused on financial literacy instruction, training over 400 unique K-12 teachers since the beginning of the 2015 school year.

Mason Aronowitz, a 4th grade student at Citrus Cove Elementary, is dressed and ready to fulfill his job as a classroom banker. Mason’s class is using the My Classroom Economy program to learn responsible financial behaviors through choices and behaviors in a simulated economy.

The inclusion of personal financial literacy education is not just vital at the secondary level, but also within elementary schools. Core behaviors that affect financial decision making are set by the age of 7. The District has introduced pilot programs for financial literacy education and trained teachers in each K-5 elementary grade level. The District understands that personal financial literacy education administered to elementary school-aged youth can have a meaningful and lasting impact on financial knowledge into adulthood.

This includes a unique partnership with the University of Wisconsin and Vanguard to use United States Department of the Treasury grant money to implement and study the effects of Vanguard’s My Classroom Economy program on the financial knowledge and capability of 4th and 5th grade students throughout the District. Data was collected from students and teachers during the first trimester, research is currently being conducted, and the program is continuing to be implemented. A final report is expected to be distributed nationally by the U.S. Department of the Treasury at the end of 2016.

While much has been accomplished in laying the groundwork, there remains much to be done before personal financial literacy education is integrated as a sustainable component of elementary and secondary curriculum across the District. As the District continues to support classroom instruction into the future, there will be also be an increased focus on providing more community and family financial literacy events.

The generous support and funding from the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund, the Celia Lipton Farris and Victor W. Farris Foundation, the Community Foundation of Palm Beach & Martin Counties, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County have made, and continue to make, this initiative possible.

Financial literacy resources for classroom use by teachers can be found on Blender. Additional resources for teachers and parents can be found on the District’s Elementary and Secondary Curriculum pages.

Administrators and teachers interested in bringing personal financial literacy education programs to your school should contact Aaron Standish, K-12 Financial Literacy Coordinator, at aaron.standish@palmbeachschools.org or PX 43869, to obtain more information.