Financial literacy pilot program begins
By ANDERS AX
STAFF WRITER | February 18,2013
As part of a new financial education initiative managed by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, three Vermont high schools will participate in two years of financial literacy education.
Fair Haven Union High School, U-32 in Montpelier and Burlington High School have been chosen for the Vermont High School Financial Literacy Pilot Program.
“Financial literacy is a needed skill for all students,” said Fair Haven Union High School Principal Brett Blanchard in a press release. “We are proud to have an excellent existing program that will, thanks to Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, expand and remain at the forefront of preparing students to understand personal finance and control their futures.”
George Cook, a business and financial teacher at U-32, said that with the current state of the economy, schools need to start teaching personal finance.
“I can’t think of an area in school that affects one hundred percent of the population that’s more important than this,” Cook said. “We’ll have kids go to Harvard next year, we’ll have kids working on a farm next year ... no matter which path these kids go on, they need to know how to manage their money.”
John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, said the goal is to get different schools involved in the program and gather information to answer the following question: How different will financial literacy be for students who have and have not studied personal finance?
“With the information we gather in this project, we hope to prove that a personal finance class taught by a highly trained teacher has a material positive impact on the knowledge and behaviors of the high school students who receive this instruction,” Pelletier said in a press release. “We hope that this pilot will show our state and our nation that it is important to train our teachers on personal finance topics and even more important have students graduate high school that are financially savvy.”
Students participating in the pilot program will be tested in their understanding of personal finance at the beginning and end of the course to reflect how their knowledge has changed.
Pelletier said 11 classes to be followed during the program will not learn from a specific curriculum. Instead the teachers will follow guidelines from Jump$tart, an organization dedicated to advancing financial literacy among students pre-kindergarten through college.
Three other confidential schools with students who have not studied personal finance will also be given the same financial evaluation at the end of their school year and have their results compared.
The overall objective is to promote the need to make financial literacy curriculums available to high school students in the state and nationwide. The complete two-year evaluation will be written at the end of 2015.
In 2009, 1,000 teachers participated in a survey funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education, a nonprofit organization that empowers individuals and families to make smart financial decisions. After the survey, five institutions nationwide were chosen to implement a pilot program to train teachers in personal finance education. One school selected was Champlain College.
Though the program has officially ended, Champlain’s program, the Vermont Teachers Summer Institute, was unique because with a grant from Merchants Bank it offered three years of summer courses for 100 teachers seeking graduate courses. The final summer courses will be offered this year.
All the personal finance education teachers at FHUHS, U-32 and BHS have attended Champlain’s summer institute.
Cook of U-32 said there has been “huge” support from parents and the public to implement these personal finance courses. He also said “kids are coming to take this class in droves.”
“I have heard nothing but, you know, comments like ‘so thrilled that our kids are enrolled in this class’ ... from the parents and the public, (there’s) huge support for financial literacy.”