Study reveals the state of K-12 economic and financial education

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This blog post is a guest post written by Nan J. Morrison, President and CEO, Council for Economic Education.

The Council for Economic Education (CEE) just released its 2016 Survey of the States: Economic and Personal Finance Education in Our Nation’s Schools.  The Survey provides a detailed look at K-12 economics and personal finance requirements in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and is an important benchmark for our progress.

The 2016 Survey shows that the pace of change has slowed, with little to no improvement in the number of states that require economics and personal finance instruction.  On the personal finance side there has been some improvement in recent years, with two more states adopting personal finance standards and requiring that those standards be taught.  However, while this progress is worth celebrating, most figures in the 2016 Survey reveal stagnation or in some cases even setbacks.  For example, the number of states that require high school students to take a course in personal finance remains unchanged since 2014 at just 17 states.  Only 20 states require high school students to take a course in economics – less than half the country and two fewer states than in 2014.

Nonetheless, we are seeing meaningful efforts to change the status quo and acknowledge the importance that these subjects play in preparing students for success in the real world.  The Survey recounts one such success story in the state of Rhode Island.  There, a group of motivated students who recognized the value of financial education in their own lives, took the initiative and successfully campaigned for the adoption of the state’s first personal finance standards.  Part of why we publish the Survey every two years is to remind everyone of stories like these and to encourage concerned citizens to take action in their own communities to effect meaningful change.

We can’t afford to ignore the benefits of economic and financial education and the drawbacks of failing to prepare all of our students for their economic futures.  Research shows that students develop better credit behaviors in states where personal finance is part of required coursework, teachers are trained in the content, and students are tested.  Additionally, economists, educators and policymakers are beginning to see financial and economic education as one of several keys in addressing growing income disparity.  Obviously there are a great many other factors; however, giving kids these tools helps them to steward their own greatest resource – their human capital.  It gives them confidence that they can manage in the world, and that they can find the means to live full lives.

It is up to all of us to make sure that every student is afforded access to quality financial education in their formative years.  See where your state stands in the Survey of the States, and take action in your own community to strengthen economic and personal finance education.  Here are a few ways that you can help:

  • Request a financial education course in your local school or district.
  • Support teacher-training initiatives for economics and personal finance teachers in your communities.
  • Promote standards and course requirements in economics and personal finance at the state level.

To support your efforts, we have developed voluntary standards in economics and personal finance, curriculum-agnostic assessments in economics and personal finance, and an online advocacy toolkit.  Please visit our website for information about these and other resources: http://www.councilforeconed.org/policy-and-advocacy/survey-of-the-states/.

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