More states are requiring school districts to offer personal-finance courses to high school students and to put in place standards for economic literacy and education, concludes a nationwide survey released last week by the National Council on Economic Education.
“There is a general public awareness now—that is greater than ever before—of the importance of including personal economic education in the education of our young people,” said Robert F. Duvall, the president of the New York City-based organization, which advocates education designed to help students become more knowledgeable consumers.
“That’s why states are including more economics requirements in their standards and doing testing and assessments,” Mr. Duvall said.
The report—which was released in Washington during a national summit on economic and financial literacy, sponsored by the NCEE—says that 49 states and the District of Columbia now include economics in their academic standards, up from 38 in 1998. In addition, at least 17 states now require that an economics course be offered in high school, up from 16 in 2000.
The survey—which polled the leaders of state councils on economic education and state-level social studies education specialists—also found that the number of states with personal-finance-education standards in place rose from 31 to 38 over the past two years, and that schools in seven states now require that high school students take at least one personal-finance course in order to graduate.
A Place in the Curriculum
But while the report shows that progress is being made, Mr. Duvall believes that economic and personal-finance education needs to be fully integrated into the school curriculum to be completely successful.
“Too many people think economics is what they do at MIT, and [that it’s not about] making practical decisions in their lives,” he said in an interview, noting that personal bankruptcy and credit card debt are growing problems.
Mr. Duvall estimates that fewer than 20 percent of today’s high school students graduate with the basic skills and knowledge needed to make economic and personal financial decisions.
Still, some educators and policymakers argue that personal finance and economics should be taught in college instead of burdening an already overloaded K-12 curriculum.
But Mr. Duvall countered that taking that approach would leave a large percentage of high school graduates without proper financial skills, because many graduates do not attend college. Plus, he said, college-level economics courses tend to focus more on theory than real-life situations.
“We need to get this into the curriculum before students leave high school,” Mr. Duvall said. “Economic and financial literacy are learned behaviors. You’re either going to learn them from teachers or the hard way—from the school of hard knocks.”
A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as Economic, Financial Education Gains Ground in States, Report Shows