The Council for Economic Education (CEE) is the leading organization in the United States that focuses on the economic and financial education of students from kindergarten through high school. For more than 60 years, our mission has been to instill in young people the fourth “R”—a real-world understanding of economics and personal finance. It is only by acquiring economic and financial literacy that children can learn that there are better options for a life well lived, will be able to see opportunity on their horizon line and, ultimately, can grow into successful and productive adults capable of making informed and responsible decisions.
We carry out our mission by providing professional development to teachers, teaching resources across the curriculum and nationally-normed assessment tools. We deliver our programs through in-person local workshops, partner organizations and online. We are embracing online technology as the new vector for delivery because teachers have less time and money to spare from their classrooms for their own education.
Learn more about the Council for Economic Education in this four minute video.
Why CEE is Needed
Our global economy has become so complex that the gap between what people know about economics and personal finance, and what they need to know, is widening every day. Americans are increasingly responsible for their financial future, yet an alarming number lack even basic economic awareness. And just as many parents are ill-equipped to instruct their children in economics and personal finance, so, too, are teachers unprepared to impart this essential knowledge. In a survey, more than 80 percent of teachers stated that they do not feel competent to teach basic personal finance, and even those who teach economics to high school students have often received minimal college instruction in the subject.
In the midst of an economic slowdown and in an absence of a general understanding of economics, political rhetoric can overwhelm facts in the public debate. The result, at best, is disinterest; at worst, disillusionment. In many sectors, the financial services industry has been demonized and capitalism has become a dirty word. When our economic system is held in such poor regard, the underpinnings of our democratic system are challenged.
We know that financial and economic literacy changes the way people see the world and their roles in it. Ignorance is not an option we can afford. CEE is uniquely positioned to close this widening gap—in knowledge, in competence, and in faith in capitalism and the democratic process.
What We Do
In business terms, CEE provides comprehensive, end-to-end delivery with built-in continuous improvement loops. Drawing on the expertise of university professors, we develop and update K-12 learning materials with a strong interactive component. To bring these lessons into the classroom, teachers receive instruction in both content and pedagogy, earning professional development credit and, in some cases, credits towards a master’s degree. Our curriculum is aligned to national standards in English and math, and with the Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics and the National Standards for Financial Literacy (both which we developed). Economics and finance are threaded into courses in math, history and even children’s literature, and offered at every level, from Advanced Placement economics in high school to hands-on economics for the youngest learners. More than 5,500 high school students annually enter our National Economics Challenge, competing in creative problem solving and tests of their awareness of economic principles, world events and business news. Second graders learn the concept of compound interest by using jelly beans, an exercise that sweetens significantly the so-called dismal science.
We are continually updating and expanding our offerings. Currently, we are developing programs targeting specific segments such as Hispanic Americans, girls and K-5 after school providers. In response to the economic downturn, we recently added “Teaching Financial Crises,” lessons that address the economic and business cycles from which those crises emerge. Finally, we have upgraded and enhanced our online presence to better engage educators and nurture a teaching community; our site features up-to-the-minute links to news events that offer teaching opportunities, and provides means to enable teachers to share information, ideas and best practices with each other. Each day more than 3,000 teachers go to EconEdLink, CEE’s most popular online resource.
What We’ve Achieved
In 2012 we trained more than 55,000 teachers; those teachers, in turn, reached 5 million students. Our assessments prove that it’s working. Testing after CEE instruction in Tennessee, for example, showed a 39 percent gain in financial literacy in the program’s elementary school students, and a 47 percent improvement for middle schoolers. Much of our evidence is anecdotal, but compelling. In one 5th-grade class in Arkansas, students learned how to earn money (they made lunch for their teachers), to save and to give back: At the end of the year, they donated $2,400 to charity. In another classroom, a 3rd grader who had just learned the concept of opportunity cost said, “I can’t believe that every time I make a choice, it costs me something.” From now on, that student will think harder—and better—every time he has to make a decision.