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The capability and confidence of the educator is a key factor for an effective financial education program. Research shows that financial education in schools is most effective when led by teachers properly trained in personal finance itself, not just in pedagogy.
Well-meaning supporters of school-based financial education often don’t incorporate teacher training requirements and, in fact, just assume that any teacher required to teach personal finance will be good at it. According to Susan Sharkey, NEFE’s director of the High School Financial Planning Program: “While financial education may be required in states, in local school district curriculum or within community youth programs, there are few requirements for individuals who teach the subject.”
A University of Wisconsin study confirmed that more than 80 percent of teachers don’t feel confident teaching personal finance. The best way to build teacher confidence, the study found, is with proper training.
Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy and NEFE collaborated on a two-year study of teachers with 45 hours of graduate-level financial literacy training and 817 Vermont high school students to see if training teachers makes a difference in student learning outcomes — and it does.
“The study findings indicate that combining highly-trained teachers and formal student learning experiences results in a positive impact on student financial literacy.” says Sharkey.
Students taught by the well-trained teachers improved by 17 percent in financial capability knowledge and behavior, while control group students (who received no instruction) dropped by 2 percent in the same measures. Pilot group students also showed “high financial literacy” on par with Generation Xers (ages 35-49), outperforming the control group students and older Millennials (ages 18-34) in the population at large.
So, not only did the students of trained teachers outperform their peers, but they reached the same level of financial literacy as many in their parents’ generation.
Although most states currently lack guidelines or certifications for who can teach personal finance, Billy Hensley, Ph.D., NEFE’s senior director of education, says, “Given the outstanding results of pilot teacher training programs such as the one in Vermont, such guidelines are within our reach.”
For more details about the findings, read the Prepped for Success research report.
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