More School Districts Committing to Financial Literacy Classes


From Chicago to Maryland, school districts across the country are beginning to introduce financial literacy lessons to their elementary and middle school classes, with some high schools requiring their students to pass a personal finance program in order to graduate.

Most students were not introduced to the world of finance unless they participated in a home economics class in high school that featured a unit on household budgeting.  However, schools are now beginning to consider introducing the subject to younger students in an effort to get them thinking about saving, spending and borrowing money, writes Regina Whitmer for District Administration.

“We should not wait until senior year to introduce students to financial literacy,” says Susan Sharkey, director of the High School Financial Planning Program, which is a National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) program focused on basic personal finance skills.  “It could be integrated into other subjects earlier in their schooling and just be part of the culture,” she says. “If we are to succeed in preparing children to understand and manage their finances, we need to engage in frequent and thoughtful discussion both in the home and at school.”

Chicago Public Schools recently committed to financial literacy, offering teachers support in order to help them seamlessly integrate financial literacy lessons into their previously existing curriculum.  Lesson plans are offered that show how teachers can partner with banks or financial planners, in addition to a stock market game students can play in order to practice their new skills.

“We want financial literacy to connect naturally with other subjects,” says Martin Moe, social science manager for the Chicago district. “If we’re doing a unit on the Great Depression, we could discuss how saving and investing choices affect society.”

Beginning in the 2011-12 school year, all high school students in Maryland have needed to complete coursework relating to financial literacy in order to graduate.  While many counties have incorporated the subject into pre-existing curriculum, Charles County Public Schools opted to create a new class open to students in their final three years of high school.

Previously, the course replaced electives and other classes, but a recent expansion allows students the opportunity to take advantage of electives during the school year.  Three new options are now offered to students to allow them to complete the requirement.  Two options would have students participate in an independent study course, while the third allows them to attend a summer school course offered at Westlake High School in Waldorf.