Training Teachers in Financial Education

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One of the main themes coming out of the Hope Financial Literacy Forum (see my review here) was concern over the state of education and the lack of financial education in our schools. Why isn't it required? Our education system in this country is very de-centralized, with the federal government having limited influence on curriculum, which is largely set at the state or district level. Today, according to the Jumpstart Coalition, 20 states require personal finance instruction incorporated into other subject matters, while 4 states require at least a one-semester course devoted entirely to personal finance. However, although these mandates exist, there is no established standard for educators to gain a sufficient knowledgebase of financial capability as a prerequisite to teaching the material, and often the mandates themselves are unfunded.

In a comprehensive study sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education, available here, researchers found that nearly two-thirds of teachers feel unqualified to utilize their state’s financial literacy standards, while less than 1 in 5 teachers reported feeling very competent to teach any of the six personal finance topics surveyed. This is a great study highlighting the need for increased teacher training. Ideally, financial education would be incorporated into teachers’ colleges, both to help teachers with their own finances and to empower educators to more effectively teach these topics as well.

Thus, it was heartening to follow up the Forum with a visit to this week’s graduate Teacher Training program at the SEC.  While the graduate program with the SEC is only in its second year, this week we are wrapping up our 24th year of our summer Teacher Training here at NYSE.

This year, over 200 teachers participated, and 45 from particularly under-resourced school districts (are there over-resourced ones?) received full scholarships for transportation, lodging etc to allow them to join us. Educators who received scholarships teach more than 6,500 students in 22 states, and 89 percent hail from Title I schools. We are reaching many people through these teachers who have impressive plans to use the information acquired (part of the application process involved a discussion of how they would share the information they learned).

Our programs aim to assist educators in effectively teaching students about the financial marketplace and its role in the global economy. Here, we get enthusiastic participation from our CEO, to Designated Market Makers on the floor, to executives from different parts of the company and. In the DC-based program, leaders from the SEC, Treasury and Department of Education participate, including Mary Schapiro, the Chair of the SEC.

The teachers are all so grateful to be a part of the program, but I always feel that it is we who should be thanking them. They are the ones on the front lines bringing this knowledge to their students, fellow teachers, parents, and their communities. A typical comment comes from Liem Tran, participant and scholar recipient: “I learned so much about content, specifically markets, strategies, and lesson plans. My competence has grown tremendously and now I truly understand finance. The human talk aspect was incredible. I am able to talk to Steve Wheeler, the CEO, DMMs themselves… where else would you get this? … I am merely a math teacher but I have learned so much that I can integrate into my curriculum and bring back to my department and school as a whole.”

(Note: Steve Wheeler, who has been at NYSE 25 years this week, runs the program, along with Camille Frederickson – they do a great job!)

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