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State’s personal finance instruction bucks ranking trend

December 23, 2017

State's personal finance instruction bucks ranking trend

When it comes to rankings pertaining to public education, West Virginia is seldom toward the top among the nation’s states. But in a recent report assessing how the nation’s high schools do in one aspect of schooling, the Mountain State did well.

The report was titled “Is Your State Making the Grade? The 2017 Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools,” compiled and presented by the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.

In that assessment, West Virginia was awarded a grade of B+. Based on the grades for the various states, West Virginia’s mark was among the top eight in the nation. Ohio received a B grade, while Kentucky was graded a C.

The report focused on high schools’ delivery of personal finance education because in most states that’s about the only level in which instruction about the subject is given, even though Champlain College’s researchers argue that such instruction should be delivered at an earlier age both at home and in the classroom. The report spells out the reasons for the importance of such education, noting it is vital to teach young people about money, its value, how to save, invest and spend, and how not to waste it so that they can more successfully manage their lives as adults.

Learning the value of money — and the demands on it when managing a household — also can provide a powerful incentive for students to strive harder in the classroom because educational success generally leads to better paying jobs and careers.

In assessing the states, the Champlain College center looked at each state’s requirements for personal finance instruction and the support for implementing it. In West Virginia’s case, the report noted that the state requires students to take a full-year civics course that has personal finance concepts embedded in it. The center estimated that the students receive about 27 hours of instruction in personal finance during that course, one of the higher number of hours among states that received a B grade. The report also noted that the state updated the education standards that apply to its Civics for the Next Generation course, which increased the estimated amount of personal finance instruction time.

Although the report didn’t mention it, the state treasurer’s office augments personal finance instruction in many of the state’s high schools through its NetWorth program, while some districts have worked with other institutions to develop their own programs.

As the Champlain College researchers suggested, there is plenty of room for improvement in helping students improve their financial literacy. Regarding West Virginia, a spokesman said it was unclear whether the state measures how proficient its students are in personal finance topics. If it doesn’t, that might be a good step for the future. That could help the state do even a better job of preparing students for one of adulthood’s biggest challenges — managing their money and other resources.

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