Personal Finance, Economic Education Curriculum Not Required in State's Schools

Connecticut has a curriculum for financial literacy for schools in the state.  But they’re not required to use it.  That’s true for economic education and personal finance education.  Despite having a 9-page state approved set of curriculum guidelines and expectations for student learning detailed on the website of the State Department of Education, there appears to be no indication as to where or whether courses are actually offered, taken and taught. Economic Education is included in the state’s K-12 standards in Connecticut, as it is in every state in the nation.  But Connecticut is one of only six states where the standards are not required to be implemented by districts, one of 27 states where a high school course is not required to be offered, one of 30 states where a high school course is not required to be taken, and one of 34 where standardized testing in the subject is not provided.

The numbers are similar for personal finance education.  Connecticut is one of 13 states that does not require standards to be implemented by local school districts, one of 28 states that does not require a high school course to be offered, and one of 28 that do not require a high school course in personal finance education to be taken. Connecticut, like most states (43) does not have standardized testing in personal finance.

That’s according to the Council for Economic Education’s “Survey of the States 2016,” a report on “Economic and Personal Finance Education in Our Nation’s Schools.”  Among the national findings:

  • While more states are implementing standards in personal finance, the number of states that require high school students to take a course in personal finance remains unchanged since 2014 – just 17 states.
  • Only 20 states require high school students to take a course in economics – that’s less than half the country and two fewer states than in 2014.
  • There has been no change in the number of states that require standardized testing of economic concepts – the number remains at 16.

Connecticut’s seven “content standards” in personal finance focus on personal decision making, earning and reporting income, managing finances and budgeting, savings and investing, buying goods and services, banking and financial institutions, and maintaining credit worthiness, borrowing at favorable terms and managing debt.  The “frameworks” outline skills that students are expected to master, and “learner expectations” at various levels, from beginning to advanced.

“Some states offer little guidance to school districts related to what personal finance content to offer in schools at each grade level; others have pushed ahead, requiring courses from elementary to high school aged students, supporting and training teachers, and in some cases even testing students on learning outcomes,” said J. Michael Collins, of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the report.

“Rigorous state standards can facilitate local schools to implement well-designed programs, which in turn expose students to concepts they otherwise would not learn. Communities may also benefit from having more financially competent households; perhaps stronger economics and personal finance standards could even be viewed ultimately as an economic development strategy, equipping young people with an increased ability to manage credit and invest in their future,” Collins added.

Statistics were not available in Connecticut on the number of school districts requiring financial literacy coursework, or the number of students who take such classes.

"States that combine personal finance and economics, support teachers, and hold students accountable for learning objectives have the best chance of promoting the development of young people who are better financial managers and stewards of their credit—behaviors with which many, if not most, young people tend to struggle," Collins pointed out.

The Council for Economic Education (CEE) is a leading nonprofit organization in the United States that focuses on the economic and education of students from kindergarten through high school.  The 65 year-old organization is based in New York City.