Monday, December 31, 2012

Interactive Government Budget Calculator

Everyone seems upset our legislators cannot seem to work together to solve for fiscal crisis. Is it really that easy? See for yourself...

Click here to make the tough choices for yourself. Is it really that easy?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

25 leaders for you to follow and me to thank

Thank you to everyone I follow on Twitter. I am on Twitter to get better and share. I have only been teaching for just under a decade, so I know I have a lot to learn. This is my first full year on Twitter, and I feel like I have learned more this year than any prior year. Twitter really is an incredible professional development tool, especially for teacher's always on the move.

So thank you to everyone I follow, and a special thank you to these 25 people. Many of you have helped me beyond twitter, you know who you are. I could write a full blog post about each of you, but I would prefer share this list with the world so others will follow you and can benefit just as I have.

@Edutopia - Quality reporting of cutting edge education resources and techniques.
@cybraryman1 - Clearly the go-to internet resource for teachers, students, and parents.
@tomwhitby - The man. Period. #EdChat.
@teacherken - I will always be thankful for the time you took to help me with my AP course.
@HCESCgifted - My go-to gifted education resource.
@Larryferlazzo - You may have the best education blog in the country.
@newtechnetwork - You are a connector, a go-to resource, and a great #PBLChat leader.
@stumpteacher - He doesn't believe in homework. That's just awesome no matter who you are.
@buddyxo - Flips, connects, and shares. I've only flipped a couple times, but I learned from the best!
@OHEducation - Effectively guiding Ohio teachers through the tough transition into new policies. 

Education Technology
@coolcatteacher - You are a technology magician with a heart of gold. It was honor to work with you.
@rmbyrne - You are the master of google apps.
@Edudemic - Every time you tweet, I know it's going to be some kind of incredible technology tool.
@remind101 - I had to bring you up because your service just rocks.
@Getting_Smart - I can always count on you to give me ideas of how to integrate technology.

Financial & Economic Literacy
@NatlJumpStart - THE connector for financial literacy organizations and resources.
@dankadlec - The best financial literacy writer in the country - period.
@NEFE_ORG - Providing links to every financial literacy resource you need, and it is all free.
@council4econed - Tweeting about every aspect of financial and economic literacy, and it's great stuff.
@PracticalMoney - They have it all covered, but their games have to be my favorite.
@AmericaSaves - Tweeting about research based saving techniques that every kid should learn.
@Bankrate - A financial calculator for everything - they have personal finance covered from all angles.
@Stlouisfed - I am still amazed at the quality of their education resources and their tweets.
@CreditExperts - These guys are educators at heart, and their tweets are useful in the classroom.
@Experian_US - Rod Griffin and Maxine Sweet share incredible credit education information.

P.S. A special thank you to Michael Roush of the National Disability Institute @RealEconImpact and Chris Shannon. We have been working very hard on the personal finance coursework for special education students to fulfill this grant, and in the process I have gained a wealth of knowledge.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 by the numbers...making the case for schools to better prepare kids for life

Outstanding student loan debt hit $1 trillion

• In 2012... roughly 650,000 people lost their homes

Credit card debt hit $850 billion

• The average total credit card debt of those who carry a balance in 2012 was... $15,418

• Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have zero emergency savings

89% of people who have access to a 401(k) are not contributing enough to retire

• When surveyed, 75% of credit card carrying college students were unaware of late payments

26 - the number of states with zero requirements to teach personal finance. This means schools in these states are not even required to integrate basic personal finance concepts into other content areas.

1 - the number of new states who began personal finance instruction in a stand-alone semester long course required for gradation (Virginia).

 The nasty ripple effects of poverty and financial stress by the numbers...

#1 cited reason for divorce is financial stress.

#1 cited reason for dropping out of college is for financial reasons.

• It is not a number, but it is a fact that financial stress sadly leads to suicide.

It is time legislators across our country get serious about education legislation that teaches to the whole child. It is time our education system prepares every student to make wise and informed financial choices. 

To better understand the need for financial literacy in our schools, watch this short video.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

3 reasons to give Pinterest a shot

I was told in a technology meeting a couple of weeks ago by a teacher I greatly respect that Pinterest is a great professional development tool. This was not the first time I had heard this, so I decided to give it a shot while on break. Pinterest has a purpose, and here are the reasons I like Pinterest the most.

1. It is the best social media tool for personalizing our professional development.
2. It is less stressful than Twitter.
3. It is a great way to interact with our colleagues, friends, or spouse.

It is the best social media tool for personalizing our professional development
We can follow subject boards of interest to us, and steer clear of the boards we have no interest in. Take for instance the teacher who recommended Pinterest. I follow her education boards to get writing ideas, but steer clear of the boards that are more of an interest to my wife than me.

It is less stressful than Twitter
At the height of the political season or when tragic news hits, tweets begin flying around that can stress us out. Pinterest boards stick to the subject. I have found this to be a more efficient use of our PD time, and a less stressful experience. I will still use Twitter, but I may end up enjoying Pinterest more.

It is a great way to interact with our colleagues, friends, or spouse
We can use the secret board option to create interaction topics. We can use the privacy setting to keep the interactions between who we would like, and change the setting so both (or multiple people) can pin things on the same board. I imagine this could be a great collaboration tool for colleagues. As an example, we are transitioning to Google Apps. I am going to invite fellow district beta testers to my Google App board.

My wife and I are using this feature for a parenting board and a home remodel board. My father and I will be bicycling and backpacking in the Swiss Alps this summer, and we are using the open board option to begin to map our journey.

Click here to learn how to use Pinterest. Happy pinning.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thank you Bill Dwight (FamZoo)

There is no better time to thank my friend Bill Dwight for his generosity than today, the day before holiday break. I just explained to my students his generosity, and they very appreciative. What made his $500 contribution for this project truly special is that he has never met my students. Bill lives in Palo Alto, California and my students are in Reading, Ohio (just outside of Cincinnati). He really has little to gain other than the satisfaction that he will be providing the first $500 toward a child's IRA. His gift could be the seed that leads to financial freedom for a child. 

Thank you Bill, you just changed a life.

Ted Blog on the fiscal cliff

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Video hooks & a virtual book for personal finance

If you are looking for 1-2 minute video hooks to introduce personal finance topics, this Investopedia video library full of scores of videos is an ideal resource. Be sure to explore and bookmark it.

CNNMoney created this virtual book complete with text, resources, quizzes, and virtual calculators. The content is straight forward and to the point, and appropriate for high school students. Be sure to explore and bookmark it.

I have added both to my K-12 Personal Finance LiveBinder.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Federal Reserve In Plain English (Video)

The St. Louis Federal Reserve is full of incredible resources. I particularly like the video above, especially followed up with many of the resources offered on the Federal Reserve Education website.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Forward thinking students

Here is how forward thinking my students are at Reading High School...

Over the past few years my students have written a marketing plan, a business plan, and populated TeenDollars full of useful financial literacy content. Our goal is to help teens with the financial choices they make now. Recently one of my business classes wrote a social media plan to grow our influence. Here were some of my favorite ideas they generated...
  • TeenDólares - A spanish version of TeenDollars. We are still looking into the right people to follow and are open to suggestions. We have two brilliant Spanish teachers willing to use this as a interdisciplinary activity for students to translate what we are trying to say into Spanish. We hope to begin tweeting in the next couple of weeks.
    • By the way, a past student developed our TeenDollars logo and has since graduated. I asked him to develop the TeenDólares logo which he did (above).
  • InstaGram - We started an Instagram account and will send charts, graphs, and pictures that link to financial literacy stories. Why? Some kids like pictures better, some kids are visual learners, and it is another communication channel. Again - - their ideas.
  • BufferApp - Use BufferApp to tweet during lunch and after school. This is when kids are most likely to read them. BufferApp also provides a very useful analytics tools that allows us to track the times and stories people like the most.
  • TeenDollars Twitter - Connect stories to famous athletes and entertainers. This is why we posted the recent 30for30 short film "Broke" on our front page and tweeted about Alan Iverson losing everything after making $150 million in the NBA.
  • Create a TeenDollars Remind101.
  • Continue to focus on content that is relevant to teens now.
    • College funding, car loans, apartments, auto insurance, student bank accounts, building credit, electronic banking services, etc
  • TeenDollars Tribune - We are going to publish a with sections including consumerism, sports, entertainment, and financial education. As you can see, we have already pulled together a draft.
Finally, many thanks to and for their sponsorship. As I have mentioned in a previous post, our school has lost 28% of our funding from previous years. So through their sponsorship we can host this website. If you are interested in becoming a TeenDollars sponsor, please contact me at

Along those lines, I started a $500 initiative last year to provide one student who, based on criteria, can best illustrate why a financial education is important to them and society. The $500 goes toward opening their first IRA. If you are interested in matching my contribution so I can award two students this year, I would be glad to share with you the specifics of the award criteria. Obviously you would be added as a TeenDollars sponsor. Please contact me at if you are interested.

A Christmas Jingle - Econ Style

This is courtesy of

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A "Review" lesson for every teacher

Here is the lesson I used to review for a test today. I felt like the lesson went really well. (By the way, the test was over credit and content from previous units but I did not incorporate the content because I wanted this template to be applicable to everyone)

I began with a 20 question matching quiz over the vocabulary. I used Quizlet to design the quiz. Students who earned perfect scores were rewarded with candy. Some important notes about Quizlet and why it made the lesson go smoother:
  • It allowed for auto-grading and instant feedback.
  • I was able to use Remind101 and our classroom Twitter account to send the virtual flashcards out to the students so they could study on their own time. 
    • The program has numerous games and assessment options the students can use to study with the virtual flashcards I made for them.
I transitioned into an ungraded formative assessment. I passed out a paper and asked the following types of open-ended questions:
  • Students were to IDENTIFY certain concepts and EXPLAIN how they are incorporated.
  • Students were to ANALYZE a concept and LIST the advantages and disadvantages.
  • Students were to EXPLAIN a concept.
  • Students were to take a position on a certain topic and JUSTIFY their position.
After they were done they exchanged papers and they did a peer review. They were allowed to use their notes to analyze each other's work.

To conclude the lesson I managed a classroom discussion over the answers to each of the questions.

I hope this helps. If you use this template in your classroom and it goes well please let me know!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

PwC's $160 commitment to financial education

Earlier this year in Chicago at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting, PwC US announced PwC’s Earn Your Future, a $160 million dollar commitment to financial education. PwC’s Earn Your Future will focus on two major gaps in the education system: a lack of financial literacy among youth and the lack of training opportunities for educators. The commitment will invest $160 million--$60 million in cash donations and one million service hours worth $100 million—in youth education, impacting more than 2.5 million students and educators in the United States.

Earlier this year I had the honor of experiencing their generosity at the Seminar for High School Educators on Business and Financial Responsibility at the Wharton School. I blogged about it while I was there. It was a first class event and one of the best experiences I have ever had.

Earn Your Future Be sure to take some time and visit their online curriculum. What is particularly impressive about it is how clean and easy it is to navigate through. I also included it as a resource in my LiveBinder.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

An incredibly useful budgeting tool for students

Students have a tough time with budgeting because they don't really know how much they need to earn to live the kind of life they aspire to live. It's a tough lesson for me to teach because there are a lot of variables that make the lesson complex and different for every student. Each line item in a budget is an individual's choice, and each line item will be different depending one where the student lives. Not to mention inflation.

Today, I stumbled across the Living Wage Calculator.

This calculator illustrates the living wage, poverty wage, and minimum wage for every state, county, and most cities across the country. It provides geographic specific anticipated expenses for various family sizes, as well as anticipated incomes for different careers. So at least this tool can provide some clarity to the students as they try to understand what it will cost to live and what they can expect to earn - - all depending on where they live.

As you can see here, M.I.T. extracts the information from a number of government websites. I highly recommend incorporating the site into your budgeting lesson.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Careers in Insurance

The OII just released, a website focused on educating students and young professionals on the extensive career opportunities available in the industry. While the main focus of the website is students, OII also included resources that will help you connect your students with information related to insurance careers. The site features:
  • The Career Survey  
  • Insurance Career Pathways
  • Video interviews 
  • Ask a Pro 
Click here to visit and take full advantage of their resources. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A pocket guide for teaching about taxes

GoKicker just pulled together an ideal resource for teaching kids about taxes and fiscal terms. It is full of engaging videos, explanations of complex content in simple language, and useful infographics. The pocket guide topics include:
  • Taxes
  • Fiscal Cliff
  • Deficit and Debt
  • Debt Limit
  • Entitlement Programs
  • Medicare
  • Social Security
  • Tax Rates
  • Tax Cuts
  • The Tax Players of Politics

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Maxed Out

It's time we stop underestimating the responsibilities and realities of many current high school students. Many are making financial decisions right now that could impact them for the rest of their lives. They have adult responsibilities ranging from cell phone bills, car loans, and student debt decisions. It is shame school districts across the country continue to latch on to 19th century curriculum in a 21st century world full of complicated financial choices these kids have to face - - but that is another matter.

I spend a few weeks covering credit and debt in my semester-long Personal Finance class. I lay a foundation of credit and debt lessons that empower kids to responsibly take advantage of credit tools and opportunities. I transition into my unit on credit cards by reviewing key credit card terms and having them analyze credit card solicitations. They then evaluate two different credit card solicitations and have to make a choice between the two, and justify the reason for their choice. I bridge the lesson into an activity using this Bankrate financial calculator and a series of scenarios with various interest rates and debt amounts so they can see for themselves the high cost of making only the minimum monthly payment.

This year I decided to show the documentary Maxed Out. Maxed Out takes viewers on a journey deep inside the American style of debt, where things seem fine as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. With coverage that spans from small American towns all the way to the White House, the film shows the consequences of credit mismanagement and disheartening regulatory gaps. The documentary is full of tear jerking stories of exploitation, families in crisis, and suicides triggered by financial hardship. I recommend showing this film to your students so they can get a glimpse of what it is like to learn from the school of hard knocks.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My new favorite #edtech toy

Have you ever seen a clip of a show or a movie that want to show your students? What about streaming a show in the time between bells to set the tone for your classroom?

Last fall Bill Maher hosted Paul Krugman and Arthur Laffer on Real Time. Paul Krugman is the economist darling for liberal's and an avid demand-side economist. Arthur Laffer is the father of the Laffer Curve and supply-side economics, every conservative's hero. So following Maher's stand-up routine, which was not appropriate for my students, Maher began the panel discussion by simply telling the two of them to go at it. The next ten minutes were brilliant, civil, and spot on with many of the points we had discussed in AP Macroeconomics. I was never able to show my classroom their discourse, and since that point I have been looking for a way to capture engaging learning moments like these for kids.

My solution - Slingbox. The Slingbox allows us to watch your TV anywhere — from our laptop or our mobile device which we can project for our students. We can even play play recorded shows. I can show my students the Krugman-Laffer discourse. I can play Squawk Box between bells, which covers the latest financial market news.

Slingbox is one more tool we can use to bring our classrooms to life for our students.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Your credit score matters

Your credit score matters. Your credit score will impact whether or not you can get a loan and the cost of the loan. It can even impact whether you get a job or rent an apartment. Your credit score can even impact the cost of some insurance products. This should matter to you, and we need to make sure it matters to students. High school kids are young adults who may already be making choices that impact their credit score.

I really like the investopedia video above as a simple hook for a lesson on credit scoring. Click here for my favorite credit education resources.

Elmo teaches kids money lessons

For Me, for You, for Later: First Steps to Spending, Sharing, and Saving, was developed in 2011 by Sesame Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street®, in partnership with PNC Grow Up Great. For Me, for You, for Later provides parents, caregivers, and educators with strategies and resources to turn everyday experiences into financial moments.

Achieve It with Sesame Street! is a free mobile app that reinforces concepts introduced in the For Me, for You, for Later kit. Parents set goals with their children and complete fun, real-world challenges that introduce important age-appropriate financial concepts such as choice, value, spending, saving, sharing, and more. This app is available for free from the iTunes store and the Android Marketplace. To locate the app, simply search 'PNC' or 'Sesame Street'.

PNC Grow Up Great is full of tools, online games, and other resources for kids, parents and educators.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Students, get out your phones and get organized

I noticed that very few of you are using your agenda books to stay organized. For those who do not have phones, you really should be. For those who do have phones, you need to start to take advantage of an ideal organizational tool just at your fingertips. It is with you all the time and it is one of your most important possessions. Not all phones are equal, but all phones do have basic tools you will find helpful.

Stop pretenting to write your homework down on a scrap piece of paper you know you will lose five minutes after class is over. Write your homework down in your calendar, and set a reminder time for when you plan on doing it, and when it is due.

Use your phone to store valuable passwords. For some of you, it may be your online banking password. For others it may be your online school program passwords like Budget Challenge or Everfi. There are plenty of applications available, such as these five. Be sure to use the appropriate password protection techniques, here are just a few.

Most of you use Twitter to follow your friends and your favorite celebrities. However, Twitter can also be a valuable learning tool. Click here for 12 Twitter feeds for HS students to follow.

Khan Academy
Do you need to see a math problem explained one more time? What about a science illustration? Khan Academy is full of videos you can use to review, extend your learning, or practice. Click here to visit Khan Academy. Yes, they have an App.

Are you having trouble with vocabulary in any of your classes? Click here to visit Quizlet to study virtually. By the way, they have an App.

Most of you use Remind101. If you have yet to signup but have the capability, I strongly suggest you signup now.

Friday, November 9, 2012

You can't fire your way to Finland

I always wondered what Charlotte Danielson, who crafted the teacher evaluation model we use, thought of the current trend of teacher evaluation reform. Well, here it is in three short minutes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

3 resources to teach about bankruptcy

The Credit Abuse Resistance Education program is dedicated to providing abundant resources for teachers and students to learn about bankruptcy and bankruptcy prevention.

The United States Courts has a collection of helpful videos on bankruptcy basics.

The National Council for Credit Counseling is the nation's largest financial counseling organization.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A researched-based argument to integrate financial literacy

The Rand Corporation just shared a summary of the results of decades of research that identifies nine lessons on how to teach 21st century skills and knowledge. Clearly, the first four lessons make a compelling argument for the integration of financial literacy skills in elementary grades. The national trend seems to be to wait until high school, that is if students are left all together to wait and learn from the school of hard knocks. The release of this research is timely, as teachers across the country are beginning to implement the new Common Core State Standards.

"As Thomas Friedman put it in a recent New York Times column, globalization compounds the urgency for students to develop the skills and knowledge they need for economic and civic success in the 21st century. Yet despite widespread agreement among parents, educators, employers and policymakers worldwide that students need skills like critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and creativity, these skills are stubbornly difficult to teach and learn.

The "transmission" model, through which teachers transmit factual knowledge via lectures and textbooks, remains the dominant approach to compulsory education in much of the world. Students taught through this method typically do not practice applying knowledge to new contexts, communicating it in complex ways, solving problems or developing creativity. In short, as our new paper lays out, it is not the most effective way to teach 21st century skills.

Decades of empirical research about how individuals learn, however, provide valuable insight into how pedagogy can address the need for 21st century skills. Indeed, the research suggests nine lessons that inform how to teach these skills:

Make it relevant. The relevance of learning specific knowledge and skills is much clearer to students—and much more motivating—if they understand how a given topic fits into "the big picture," or a meaningful context.

Teach through the disciplines. Students develop their 21st century skills and knowledge as they learn why each academic discipline is important, how experts create new knowledge, and how they communicate about it.

Develop lower and higher order thinking skills—at the same time. Students need to comprehend relationships between given variables and how to apply this understanding to different contexts.

Encourage transfer of learning. Students need to develop the ability to apply skills, concepts, knowledge, attitudes and/or strategies they develop in one context, situation or application to another, reflexively (low-road transfer) or after deliberate thought and analysis (high-road transfer)."

Click here to read the full summary or download the research paper. Click here to download the K-12 Jump$tart Personal Finance National Standards. Click here for an e-binder of resources for financial literacy integration.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#EdTech specialist - can you please help?

The purpose of this post is to ask for help and advice from #EdTech specialist who are familiar with the new MacBook Air. I was fortunate to be the recipient of a $60,000 grant from Discover's Pathway to Financial Success, and with my Grant dollars I purchased a full computer lab. Click here if you are interested in learning more about the Grant, and how else I have allocated the money.

Our technology specialist has already ordered 30 MacBook Pro's (plus one for me), and all of the support equipment. Our school is not a 1:1 school, and many of the kids have no experience working with a laptop computer. Furthermore, the kids have little to no experience turning in paperless work, or using online programs to take notes.

The primary purpose for the technology is to support my students in my stand-alone personal finance course for our special education students. I will have kids from all of my classes using the computers, so they are going to benefit as well.

I have a SMART board in my classroom that has never worked, but is going to be fixed. I would like to integrate my SMART board into my lessons, student notes, and classroom activities.

To be clear, I do not want to overwhelm the students. My goal is to use technology to enhance learning opportunities. I do not want to overwhelm them with technology and create barriers to learning.

My short term goals and questions
  • I immediately want to go paperless with everything except for tests. This means how I share notes, assignments, and projects. I have been told that Microsoft's OneNote is an excellent program for note-sharing.
    • Does One-Note work well with Mac's?
    • Is there any cost for One-Note beyond the initial purchase of the program?
    • What is the third-party intermediary that allows for sharing notes, and is there a cost?
    • Are there any other note-sharing programs that you feel may be better?
    • We have an internal dropbox at the school. Would this be the best way for the students to turn in their assignments? Would DropBox be better because it has an app?
  • I want to ensure students are not sidetracked with off-site/off-topic internet sites. 
    • What kind of spyware do you recommend I use?
    • Beyond engaging lessons, do you have any specific classroom management techniques you feel are effective?
  • I want to make sure the computers are not damaged or stolen.
    • Any advice?
My long term goals and questions
  • I want my students to leave our school and enter a college or a work setting computer literate. I don't know how else to explain my end goal other than sharing two visions... 
    • I want see my students in a college sitting next to kids who attended elite private schools with 1:1 programs, and be able to outperform them. 
      • Any specific advice, programs, fluencies, that I should integrate into my coursework?
    • I want my non-college bound students and/or special education students to walk into an office setting and have enough technology fluency to thrive in an everyday office setting.
      • Any specific advice, programs, fluencies, that I should integrate into my coursework?
  • I do not want to ever use paper again - - ever.
    • Do you know of any assessment programs that would allow me to upload my assessments, for my students to take the assessments, and to turn them in? Note - my tests are typically multiple choice and extended response. 
    • Do you know of any programs that will auto-grade multiple choice and/or written response questions?
  • I want my students to leave every class with an e-portfolio, something they can show future employers or college admissions. 
    • Any suggested e-portolio programs and/or resources? Preferably free.
Any advice you can provide me in response to this post is greatly appreciated.

Thank you...for 39 years

Earlier this month I had a close friend tell me that he divides people into two categories. There are people who skim across the surface of life - - experiencing and doing things that make their own lives better. Then there are people who dive into the lives of others, and who dedicate their lives to making the experiences and lives of other people better. These are the people who leave a legacy, the people who are talked about years after they are out of your lives or after they pass, people like my great friend Dennis Sulfsted.

Dennis Sulfsted grew up in Reading, Ohio. Dennis partially stepped away from Reading to attend the University of Cincinnati. He soon returned to serve the community in 1974 as a teacher at Reading Schools and never left. During his tenure, he won countless awards for excelling with every position he held with our district. As an English teacher and Newspaper advisor, he won national awards. As a wrestling coach, he won numerous championships and coach of the year awards. As our technology director, he won leadership awards.

I chose not to write a full-page summary of his awards, because adult recognition is not that important to him. I believe the moments that matter the most to him are memories of students in the midst of a lesson, who he has at the edge of their seats. Memories of students engaged in learning during a carefully crafted lesson that drive deep into the soul of a child, far beyond the context of a book.

Dennis is a friend I turn to as a moral compass. He serves as my guide to help me navigate through the many shades of grey in education. Regardless of the situation his priorities are clear and consistent. He puts the needs of kids first. He never lies - - ever. And he prioritizes helping teachers’ help kids through technology.

Dennis transitioned from the classroom to our full-time technology director twelve years ago. Regardless of whether he was excelling as a classroom teacher, or through classroom teachers, he spent his career excelling for kids. I experienced this first-hand. I am every technology director’s worst nightmare. I am always pushing the envelope, and often doing so at the last minute. Dennis was always there for me. He often dropped what he was doing to help me because he knew my students would benefit.

To begin the year, the computer lab Dennis built was dedicated to him. The computer lab is now known as the “Sulfsted Computer Lab”. So in the years ahead, teachers and alumni will walk past his lab and remember him, and everything he did for teachers and kids.

I can’t say I will miss Dennis as a friend, because I will not lose touch with him. What I can say is thank you. Thank you for making me a better teacher. Thank you for your advice, your support, and your passion. Most of all, thank you for leaving a legacy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Common Core Resources

Here are my favorite common core resources:
Here are my four favorite posts which share a collection of common core resources:

The United States of Financial and Economic Literacy

The Council for Economic Education has done a terrific job in the past year pulling together this basket of advocacy resources. Their resources include a wide variety multimedia such as the video above and this student debt calculator. They have gone as far as having a dedicated staff member to government affairs and partnership projects, Mary Blanusa, who is a tremendous connector and wealth of advocacy knowledge.

I blogged about this advocacy toolkit earlier, prior to stumbling across this video from a tweet from Gracie Rios Morales of the Federal Reserve.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Special education children deserve a financial education too

I am excited to announce that Discover Financial Services has awarded us (Reading Community Schools) a $60,000 grant to cover the cost of implementing a financial education course specifically for special education and special needs children into our curriculum. The grant is part of Discover’s Pathway to Financial Success program, a five-year, $10 million investment to bring financial education curriculum into public high schools across the country.

Receiving the Discover Financial Services Pathway to Financial Success Grant is a tremendous opportunity for Reading Community Schools to add to our financial literacy program. We already have such a strong curriculum and this will enable us to expand this successful program for special education children.

Comprehensive financial literacy coursework for special education/special needs children for a semester long class does not exist. Since being awarded the Discover Grant, I have begun working closely with national experts to pull together the course-writing team. Doug Young with the Council for Economic Education, a partner in the project, connected me to Michael Roush, the National Program Director for the National Disability Institute. Laura Levine, the Executive Director of Jump$tart, has also been helpful in the process. Chris Shannon, who has written coursework for NEFE and VISA, will be involved in writing the coursework. I have also allocated funds to purchase a full computer lab.

Our collective goal is to write standards and course lessons that will be incorporated in special education classrooms across the country. The generosity of Discover will impact Reading kids, and kids throughout the nation. We are honored to be the first educators to tackle this special project.

My district made the commitment three years ago to mandate a stand-alone course in Personal Finance to graduate, and began to offer a unit of Personal Finance in the middle school. In addition, personal finance and economic strands are being taught in our elementary buildings coupled with experiential elementary programs such as UC's Economic Center STEP program and the Stock Market Game. What was missing was a robust and inclusive financial literacy course specifically designed for special education and special needs children.

Statistics show that a majority of Americans lack the knowledge to make good financial decisions. Eight-four percent of high school students say they need more education on financial management topics, and the Department of the Treasury reported that graduates of high schools in which personal financial education is offered achieve higher savings rates and net worth than those graduating in states where financial education is not mandated.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Character Counts

Imagine opening a parent-teacher conference with “Let’s discuss your child’s character.” The first time I heard this prompt was a few weeks ago at the PwC KWHS Seminar for High School Educators on Business and Financial Responsibility. The presentation was an attempt to tie in character traits to financial behavior. The presenter used the KIPP Character Report Card as the foundation for his presentation, which emphasized the content area I teach.

Earlier in the year I wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post on the dangers of not teaching personal finance to kids. These frightening statistics illustrate the consequences of not equipping our students with basic personal finance tools and concepts — and Americans know it. Eighty-two percent of American parents agree that personal finance should be a graduation requirement, and 89% of teachers feel the same way.

Personal finance is still in the infancy stages of development in our schools. A challenge of teaching the course well is preparing students to put knowledge into action. I enjoy using games and simulations to bridge content with behavior, I even created my own. Although I have yet to assign a grade to the character traits sometimes necessary to making an understood financial choice as KIPP does.

Relative to personal finance, the character traits discussed at the seminar that stood out for me were grit, self-control, and kindness. Grit is defined as the ability to finish what one starts; complete something despite obstacles; a combination of persistence and resilience. Self-control is defined as the ability to regulate what one feels and does; being self-disciplined. Kindness is defined as doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.

You need grit to balance a budget on poverty wages. It takes grit to manage job losses or deaths in the family. It takes self-control to restrain from using your credit card to buy something now you really cannot afford. You need self-control, which as you can see in this video is not always innate, to save and wait to buy something later. Living a family budget that prioritizes other members of your family before yourself takes genuine kindness.

Teaching to the whole child is challenging and personal. Most would agree that someone’s character is one of the most important factors in their own success. At a minimum, our students should understand what character traits are necessary to reach their goals. So although a character report card may not feel right to me, neither does an education that all together avoids developing a student’s character. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Fed's EconWise iPad App

The excellent economic analysis you expect, now with the advantages of a free mobile app.

EconWise opens the door to the economic publications of the St. Louis Fed—wherever you go. You’ll find unbiased content, expert research, and down-to-earth commentary in the fields of macroeconomics, microeconomics, monetary policy, banking, finance, and personal finance. Easily sort and search through the publications in several different ways. New content is added frequently. The St. Louis Fed is pleased to continue its history of publishing a wide range of economic analysis, with the aim of helping readers better understand economic concepts and make better decisions. 


Click here for the link to the app store.

Why I'm interested in MindBlownLabs

I just pledged to help fund an innovative financial literacy solution, called Mindblown Life (MBL). Jason Young, a friend of mine and fellow Milken Winner has been working on this for a while now.

MBL is a mobile game/app that will empower millions of young people with critical money management skills. Jason's team is raising funds to launch MBL through Kickstarter, an online platform that allows people with creative projects to raise money from their extended networks.

I am interested in MindBlown because I am eager to find solutions to bridging financial content to financial behavior, and using game-based learning as a method of doing it. 

Click here if you are interested in learning more and/or contributing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tools to advocate for financial literacy

I often hear fellow educators discuss how we can advocate for requirements in personal finance instruction and coursework. A matter of fact, this NEFE study found that 89 percent of teachers agree or strongly agree that students should take a financial literacy course or pass a test for high school graduation.

I am honored to be a member of the Council for Economic Education GATE Teacher Advisory Board. In yesterday's meeting I was informed of their dedicated tool-kit and area on their website that provides educators with the tools they need to be legislative advocates.

Click here for the Council on Economic Education dedicated webpage on advocacy.

Click here for the Council on Economic Education Advocacy Tool Kit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bloom's Taxonomy According to Homer Simpson

Click here to watch a five minute video illustration of Bloom's Taxonomy using Homer Simpson. It is the best I have ever seen.

Click here to check out my previous post of my six favorite Bloom's Taxonomy resources.

Two Reasons Why Banks Should Promote Financial Literacy

It is not uncommon for people to believe that banks want a financially illiterate consumer base. However, new research indicates that may not be the case.

The World Bank's Financial Inclusion Global Practice has used survey results from the Consumer Protection and Financial Capability (CPFC) to illustrate what the CPFC data can tell us about the association between financial literacy, trust in financial institutions and financial inclusion. The results may surprise you.

You can read the full report by clicking here.

The research indicates two persuasive reasons for financial institutions to support a national movement to bring financial literacy into our classrooms.

1. The higher the level of financial literacy, the more formal financial products and services people use.

2. The number of formal products and services used also increases with the level of trust in financial institutions. Those who do not even know if they trust in banks, are unsurprisingly the ones with the least exposure to financial markets.

Dr. Lusardi and Dr. Mitchell both indicated at the PWC & Knowledge@Wharton seminar this weekend that research indicates just a little bit of financial literacy translates into a 20% increase in someone's net worth over time. That is not to say that if someone receives a financial education they will always make a wise financial choice. As the World Bank points out, almost every smoker knows about the negative effects of smoking. Yet that does not always change their behavior. But that doesn't mean we should stop informing the public of the consequences of smoking cigarettes.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Knowledge @ Wharton & PwC

My experience today with PwC and Penn's Wharton School of Business was a new level of professionalism and excellence. They teamed up to deliver the Seminar for High School Educators on Business and Financial Responsibility. I had the privilege of sitting on the opening panel with Shannon Schuyler (corporate responsibility leader, PwC), Georgette Phillips (vice dean, undergraduate division, Wharton), and Annamaria Lusardi (professor of economics and accountancy and academic director of the Global Center for Financial Literacy, George Washington University School of Business). The panel was moderated by my friend Dan Kadlec, personal finance columnist, TIME.

Following our panel discussion, Diana Drake (KWHS managing editor) provided a website demonstration of KWHS. Their website was robust and full of turn-key financial literacy lessons that could be integrated into a number of disciplines. I spent some time following the demonstration running through various other areas of their site, and additionally found multiple economics and business lessons I plan to incorporate in my lessons.

Click here to visit the Knowledge @ Wharton High School website.

I also spent more time reviewing PwC's financial literacy curriculum. Online financial literacy resources are typically geared solely for high school students. What impressed me the most was that PwC also provided resources for elementary and middle school educators. On a side note, their site is clean and easy to navigate through.

Click here to review PwC's financial literacy curriculum.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Parent Resources for Financial Literacy

Here are a few terrific resources teachers can use who are interested in working with parents to collectively develop personal financial literacy skills in students.

Parent Guides are a first-time-ever curriculum developed for parents to begin sharing Financial Fitness for Life® with their children at every grade level. The lessons are simple, with exercises parents can guide or explore as a family. Each subject area provides material for family discussion and an assortment of recommended activities that parents can do together with their kids. There are two comprehensive versions: K-5 and 6-12.

I wrote about Money As You Grow in this earlier post, which is 20 lessons for parents built by the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability.

Updated: Click here to visit activities developed for parents and kids by Schwab MoneyWise.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

10 reasons to attend the Jump$tart National Educator Conference

1. Tools, resources, information and support for teaching personal finance in the classroom.

2. A variety of workshops under three strands: advocacy, curricula / content, and personal development.

3. The opening reception is always fun. This year it will be with Jump$tart Leadership at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

4. Collaborate with peers who have a similar passion and interest from across the country.

5. Last year's Saturday Special Dinner Event was accompanied with a great show.

6. Lots of free financial education resources in the exhibit hall.

7. The opportunity for 15 professional development hours for Teachers

8. The opportunity to participate in a free financial planning clinic,

9. A financial educator certification program test on Friday, which I will be taking.

10. It is a coalition—an organization of organizations that share an interest in advancing financial literacy among students in pre-kindergarten through college. Their mission is a cause not a company, and they have pulled together about 150 national organizations and entities from the corporate, non-profit, academic, government and other sectors.

Click here to register for the Jump$tart National Educator Conference.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Teaching Entrepreneurship

My friend Doug Young from the Council for Economic Education just passed on this terrific resource for teaching entrepreneurship. Use these supplemental videos to introduce to your students the lessons in their Entrepreneurship Economics publication.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Student Debt: Be a part of the solution

Student debt is now over one trillion dollars, exceeding credit card debt. It is a growing problem that can be quantified with a number of statistics. Certainly avoiding student debt if at all possible is appropriate, but for many it is not a realistic option. So rather than diving into the student debt problems that are out of educators hands, I wanted to share how we could be a part of the solution. 

Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. They are responsible for managing a number of student financial assistance programs. These programs provide grants, loans, and work-study funds to students attending college or career school. Their website is a tremendous resource for educators.

Click here to read the K-Adult checklist to prepare for college. This is information we should share with every student. A good way tool to use to kick off any lesson about paying for college is their two minute introductory video below.

Click here to read about the lesson I plan on using to prepare my students to find the right college fit.

Friday, September 7, 2012

12 Twitter feeds for HS students to follow

Most of my students are actively engaged with Twitter. Subsequently, I started the TeenDollars Twitter feed last year as a way to share financial and consumer education information applicable to them now. Examples of information we share include advice on how to financially prepare for college (such as processes and financial aid checklists), getting insurance for the first time, or consumer tips on how to buy a car. This week I started to use our Twitter feed as an additional anchor activity, and allow students to select their favorite article to retweet from our account.

Here is who I believe to be the top 12 Twitter feeds for high school students to follow. Each Twitter feed provides practical life advice and financial tips they can benefit from now.

@PlanetMoney NPR’s Planet Money is full of applicable financial and economic information communicated through infographics, podcasts, and blog postings.

@KhanAcademy Khan Academy has 3,300 videos and multiple practice exercises for a number of content areas.

@VolunteerTEENnation VolunTEENnation connects teen volunteers to teen volunteer opportunities.

@USNewsEducation US News & Education provide numerous tips for transitioning into college.

@FASFA Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation.

@PayingForSchool Fastweb provides great insight into scholarship opportunities and other useful information for students transitioning into college.

@CFPB The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides a number of tools consumers can use to make wise and informed financial choices.

@TeenDollars TeenDollars is student managed and dedicated to providing their fellow students with the financial literacy tools and concepts they need now. They throw in a few fun financial education games from time to time.

@AmericaSaves America Saves provide free financial tools, savings services, advice and resources that help Americans from every income level take the steps needed to take charge of their finances and manage money more effectively.

@Experian_US Experian provides useful information about credit, debt, and credit scores.

@Bankrate Bankrate is full of use consumer advice and financial calculators.

@PracticalMoney VISA's Practical Money Skills is most popular with my students for the financial education games Financial Football and Financial Soccer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The gold standard resource for teaching students about banking

The CFPB just released the gold standard resource for teaching high school students about banking. It is written in plain language and is accompanied with an easy to follow infographic.

Click here to see the resource for yourself.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

SEC Study Regarding Financial Literacy Among Investors

The staff of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission just released a study regarding financial literacy among investors as required by section 917 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Studies reviewed by the Library of Congress indicate that U.S. retail investors lack basic financial literacy. According to their research, the most effective existing private and public efforts to educate investors include programs that are:
  • Research-based
  • Goal oriented
  • Emphasize important investor education concepts
  • Easily accessible
  • Delivered efficiently
  • Relevant to their target audience
As a strategy to improve financial literacy, OIEA and other FLEC participants will work jointly and collaboratively to develop programs:
  • Targeting specific groups including young investors, lump sum payout recipients, investment trustees, the military, underserved populations, and the elderly
  • Promoting the importance of checking the background of investment professionals
  • Promoting as the primary federal government resource for investing information
  • Promoting awareness of the fees and costs of investing
Click here to read the full SEC report.