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Graduating From Test Scores to Credit Scores

POSTED: April 7, 2016 | BY: April Somboun | TAGS: , , , , , , , , , ,

_DSC6347Brian Page 8x10 hi res for print

Written by: Brian Page, Chair, Council for Economic Education Teacher Advisory Council

Later this spring, high schools across the country will be graduating students from a world of test scores to a world of credit scores. Many teens will unknowingly be making decisions that will impact them in the decade to come. Yet most lawmakers have fallen short of respecting personal finance as a dedicated subject worthy of stand alone classes required for graduation, taught by teachers trained to teach it well. It’s time we work together to advocate on behalf of high school students to prepare them for the real world.

High school science, math and language arts teachers receive content specific instruction in college, and are required to pass content specific tests to earn teacher certification. Personal finance… not so much. Often times when mandates are passed, they require the integration of personal finance into other coursework. The mandate is often dumped into the laps of teachers who have never been trained to teach personal finance.

A FINRA Investor Education Foundation-funded study, State Financial Education Mandates: It’s All in the Implementation, examined the effectiveness of state mandates on financial education for high-school students. The study noted that if a rigorous financial education program is carefully implemented, it can improve the credit scores and lower the probability of credit delinquency for young adults. In other words, we need to train our teachers, require semester courses devoted to personal finance, and use hands on teaching methods that focus on relevant content.

NCLB aside, our country has historically been a locally controlled education system. This changed following the financial collapse in 2008. Somehow a banking collapse led to education “reform”, and schools were faced with a multitude of new evaluation systems and testing requirements. Subsequently, schools and lawmakers now seem to lack the appetite to pass further education mandates. This should not preclude us from trying, using a common sense approach that does not further burden our schools. I’m confident that if asked, parents and teens would be much happier about recent reform efforts if standardized test scores were a little less important, and helping them build their own credit scores were a little more important.

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Comments (1)

  • I actually live in that world you advocate. Virginia made a full year of economics and personal finance a state requirement for high school graduation a few years ago (I helped lobby for the law), not just a semester. I have taught it for three years since it was introduced in our school.

    While nobody would argue with emphasizing (education on) credit scores, at the expense of time spent on standardized testing if necessary, setting up a required course is only the beginning. The next hurdle is teaching serious economics and personal finance to students at all levels of academic attainment.

    When we started, some of our teachers were afraid to teach personal finance when they did not do many of the things they would be teaching. Economics concepts without having taken an economics course in college themselves. A bit like a doctor who smokes teaching abstinence. The easy road, and the one I believe is not worth traveling, is to give the students a textbook and a lot of worksheets.

    Instead, one has to make the concepts and skills relevant to the students’ real world, a world all students can and one day will have to deal with, and at a level where all of them can gain what they need. It solves the teachers’ problems too, because if you design objectives that all manner of high school students can not only comprehend but also use, they are not out of the teachers’ reach either.

    This requires going beyond simple personal finance in the sense of telling students what a credit score is, or even teaching them methods of improving their credit. It requires teaching knowledges they need to understand the world around them (and outside school), plus teaching skills to improve their chances in that world. Economics to understand how the world works and where they fit in — regardless of where they will fit in. Personal finance to develop strategies to deal with economic reality — whether that reality is higher or lower on the economic totem pole.

    All possible, but only if it is economics and personal finance with a purpose. Not just a mandate.

    POSTED: May 4, 2016 | BY: Name James Maxstadt