What kind of courses do you think are taught in public schools today? The basics of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies are still the core of our elementary school curriculum. It is critical for children to master those in the early grades to have a foundation for learning as they move into middle school and high school. There are a number of other courses like music, art, and physical education that round out the typical school day. The Virginia State Board of Education adopts Standards of Learning for each required course offered and leading to graduation. It includes the basic goals and objectives that must be included in each course.
This is being written in April, which is Financial Literacy Month. There is a course that was approved by the Virginia Department of Education as a high school graduation requirement in the State of Virginia in 2009 and became effective with the class of 2015. Called Economics and Personal Finance, this one-semester course culminates with each student earning W!se™ Financial Literacy Certification. Chesapeake teachers also enrich their curriculum with resources provided by WHRO TV. Virginia was one of the early states to require such a course for earning an advanced studies or standard diploma. Now many states are looking at that requirement. It’s about time! Students need to begin understanding the role of finance as young children when they first learn the value of coins and numbers on paper bills. Some children are fortunate enough to have parents who provide opportunities at home to learn about financial Literacy.
During my first year of teaching, I designed an economics curriculum for my fourth-grade class in Richmond. It included learning how to begin a savings program by going to the grand opening of a new bank where each child opened a personal savings account (with parental permission, of course) and tracked deposits and interest all year. They also studied the Stock Market and visited a financial planner’s office with a stock ticker on the wall. They worked in groups to purchase several virtual stocks and followed their progress each week.
Virginia’s required Economics and Personal Finance course extensively covers many topics: consumer skills, contracts, investing, supply and demand, the market economy, protecting identity, banking, credit, loans, taxes, managing debt, and building wealth. It also covers the importance of understanding benefits when one takes a job, and other issues, including the importance of having and maintaining a good credit score. The teachers are W!se Certified Financially Literate™ and understand how to make these concepts relevant to students’ lives. Students also learn how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) necessary for grants, loans, and scholarships when applying for college). The benefits of Virginia 529 (a crucial savings program for post-secondary education financial planning) are also covered.
This excellent course can positively impact students’ lives as they move into adulthood. Parents can also benefit by reinforcing the financial Literacy their children receive in this course.