Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why Rank Teachers?

In the private sector, employees may earn promotions from evaluations. That is generally not the case in education. Administration is a specialization of education, not necessarily a promotion for educators. Further, do we really want to create a system that incentivizes our "best" teachers to leave the classroom?

In the private sector, employees are often paid bonuses based on their reviews. Despite recent education reform efforts, that is not the case for most educators. Besides, historian Diane Ravitch explains through historical context in her book "Reign of Error" that merit pay has been tried, and has repeatedly failed.

Removing "ineffective" educators does not have to be done by ranking them against their peers. Such a decision can be determined by observation criteria and a process designed to give educators the opportunity to improve first.

Students do not get better because their teacher has a ranking.

Most people, regardless of their profession, do not enjoy being ranked. It leads to counterproductive tension, stress, and justified debate.

So what is the benefit of ranking teachers "Accomplished"; "Skillful"; "Developing"; "Ineffective"?

What if we turned back time. What if every penny and hour that has been poured into ranking teachers was poured into making us better?

What if for every minute teachers had to spend...
  • ...proctoring standardized tests; we led project based learning assignments.
  • ...discussing standardized tests; we discussed new instructional strategies.
  • ...completing performance evaluation paperwork; we explored applicable game-based learning tools.
  • ...completing pre and post conference observation paperwork; we observed fellow colleagues and collaborated with one another.
  • ...reviewing performance paperwork with our administrators; we discussed new ways to integrate technology into their classroom with our administrators.
  • ...reviewing test taking techniques; we created additional opportunities for student led projects. 
Most teachers love to learn. The explosion of Twitter chats and educational Pinterest posts are tangible anecdotes of our passion to improve - - even outside of school hours. We want to get better and we enjoy learning how to be better for our students. 

What I don't understand is how turning teachers into numbers and then sharing our numbers with the rest of the world is making us any better.

So... what is the benefit of ranking teachers, and what is the cost?

P.S. For any readers or legislators who may believe I'm "whining", my past "results" and upcoming "ranking" will be evidence that I'm not, but rather questioning purpose. 

New Game Based Learning Tool to Teach Disability Insurance is an excellent game based learning learning tool for teaching disability insurance.

They even have an app!

If you are 30 years old or younger, you have a 1 in 3 chance of needing long-term disability care, with an average coverage length of 32 months. What is particularly relevant for high school students to understand is they are not immediately eligible for full Social Security disability benefits early in their careers; and even if they were the coverage is inadequate.

This previous post is dedicated to exhibiting a broader range of insurance education resources.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday and Budgets

Budgets are hard to manage. Cars break down, kids get sick, roofs need replacing. These are life events that never fit neatly into a budget. So here is how I recommend you establish a budget.

Begin with...

  • Fully contributing to your retirement programs at work with a direct deposit.
  • Contributing to an emergency savings account with a direct deposit.
  • Contributing to your children's college education with a direct deposit.
  • Review your insurance information semi-annually to make sure you are adequately covered (life, health, disability, property, etc.)
  • Predict your tax obligations and pay them along the way to ensure you do not owe at the end of the year.
Obviously, if you are not investing for retirement now, retirement will never come later. Save. Savings covers the "messy" events that blow up monthly budgets. In my opinion, everything else is much less important, and that is a great place to trim costs. So with the remaining money, prioritize and spend. 

A budget should reflect what you value the most. So during the hustle and bustle of Black Friday be sure to prioritize spending on what really matters most to you first, and use Black Friday as an opportunity to trim costs on the plastic products that don't really make us happier

Monday, November 18, 2013

My updated student loan lesson

Multiple reports have been published explaining that when high school students list their preferred colleges on federal financial aid applications, that they could be used against them.

"A university concerned about its "yield" - a closely-watched measure that tracks how many accepted students actually enroll - may not extend an admission offer if the university is near the bottom of an otherwise qualified student's list, for fear the offer will be rejected.

A college at the top of a student's list, on the other hand, may not feel compelled to offer generous financial aid, since the student is seen as likely to accept without it."

The advice our guidance counselors are giving is to have our students list their top ten in alphabetical order.

I incorporate resources from the US Department of Education (FAFSA) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau such as college search tools and key dates in the lesson.

Here is my full lesson posted online. The "Student Handout" guides the student through the lesson.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Do you have a classroom micro-economy? Be careful.

A new trend in personal finance classrooms is to create micro-economies. I am a big fan of using a micro-economy when they are managed appropriately, particularly in the elementary grades. A matter of fact, I advised Vanguard on their development of MyClassroomEconomy and serve on the advisory council for BizWorld. To put my concern about micro-economies into context, I need to address the spirit and environment of a personal finance classroom.

One view: Personal Finance should be offered in every school so our children will be empowered with tools and concepts to be rich.

My view: Personal Finance should be offered in every school so our children will be empowered with practical tools and concepts to live a happy life.

Perspective on happiness varies from person to person. For some, happiness does indeed correlate with great wealth. For most, research has found that financial stability is most correlated with happiness, not great wealth.

To begin the year in my classroom we play the Awesome Island Game (which I no longer own the rights). In my game, participants simulate a life over the span of forty years. The financial choices they make impact their net worth. Most students aspire to conclude the game with the greatest net worth, earning them a ticket to "Awesome Island".

Earlier this semester I noticed one of our brightest students was accumulating enough assets to earn a ticket to Awesome Island. However, at the conclusion of the game he only had enough money to purchase a ticket to "It's Okay Island". I quickly reviewed his budget and recognized on the philanthropy line item that he had given most of his wealth away at the end of his life. It was important for him to give back, it is what makes him happy. I was impressed that he understood that feeling awesome has more to do with what lies in your heart, rather than the zip code under your feet.

With that said, I am a big fan of using micro-economies when they are managed appropriately. However, here are my concerns...

  • Correlating test grades with a micro-economy can be contrary to the spirit of a personal finance class. We want students to understand how to generate wealth and value the benefits of capitalism. However, if a teacher is strictly correlating the success of a student with wealth, what does that say about us? Let's not send a message to our students that serving as a teacher, fire fighter, police officer, social worker, soldier, etc. makes us a failure because we don't have the same bottom line as an investment banker.
  • Including test grades as a part of a micro-economy can be counterproductive to some special education children who cognitively do not have the ability to test as well as some of their peers. Many of these kids go through school frustrated and fully aware of their challenges. Our classrooms should give them hope, not a rank. 
  • Including test grades as a part of a micro-economy is not necessarily an accurate reflection of how well a student will do financially in life. As an example, my students have participated in the bill paying simulation Budget Challenge for a number of years. I do not give them time in class to work, it is purely for homework and designed to measure whether they are gritty enough to stay on top of their bills throughout the semester in their own time. In other words, I'm assessing their behavior. I have found...
    • there is a correlation between content and behavior, however...
    • some students who test well are not gritty enough to pay their bills on time.
    • some students who do not test well are gritty enough to pay their bills on time, but struggle to make good choices. However, many of these students still outperform the good test takers who are apathetic. 
Like I said, a micro-economy can be a great experience for students. I am drawn to experiential learning, particularly when it incorporates entrepreneurship opportunities. How to generate great wealth is a lesson every child should learn. Kids also need to experience the value of making enough money and managing it well enough to reach their own goals. Just be careful how you implement the simulation. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What I use to teach my own children financial literacy

I'm often asked what resource(s) I use to teach my own children financial literacy skills. It's a fair question, considering I share a plethora of resources I personally believe could be valuable.

I'm a big believer in student choice and game based learning. Therefore, I expose my own children to multiple resources, I make sure I always include a game based learning option, and allow them to select their favorite resource(s). To prevent the summer "brain drain", I set aside educational time each day with my own children. Part of this time is spent on entrepreneurship and integrating financial literacy skills.

My boys are in the 1st grade and 5th grade. Their favorite financial literacy resource is the Secret Millionaires Club. In their own words, here is why they love it....

Bryce (pictured above), who is in the 1st grade,  likes the "Cartoons" because "they are funny and fun to watch." There are 26 total Webisodes, all of which would make great video hooks for a classroom project.

Christian (pictured above), who is in the 5th grade, likes the "Math Game" because "It's fun!". He also helped his younger brother play the game. The Math Game that Christian is eluding to is Number Blaster.

Coming this fall...

The Grow Your Own Business Challenge is just beginning. Kids 7 through 14 will be challenged to come up with a new business idea. Entrants will earn a chance to win a trip to Omaha to meet Warren Buffett at a special finalist celebration event--and they'll also earn a chance to win $5,000! As you can see, it is breathe of fresh air for educators who seem to be facing one standardized test after another.

The program even helps by providing free teaching resources. This is a great way to engage elementary students in an entrepreneurial activity.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

9 napkin sketches that make personal finance easy

Carl Richards, a financial planner, has developed a continuing series of back-of-the-napkin drawings and posts that explain the basics of money through simple graphs and diagrams. Here are nine napkin sketches, each addressing key financial literacy concepts, that I am going to integrate into my coursework.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

GBL resource to teach digital safety

The FBI just released CYBER Surf Islands, an ideal game based learning resource to teach digital safety to elementary and middle school students.

Players navigate CYBER Surf Island by playing all of the games within the student's grade level. Games can be played in any order and at any time. There is even an exam at the end.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The collapse of common sense

There are a handful of researchers who do not believe financial education should be offered in our schools. I am not going to dignify their research by sharing it, not because I am being obstinate, but because each financial education antagonist has one thing in common - - they do not understand K-12 education. So please pardon my indignant post, but I am sensitive to policymakers suggesting education policy who do not understand education.

The premise of the argument commonly leads with a false narrative, claiming that financial education in our country is widespread. Most commonly, research states that "44 U.S. states included 'personal finance' in their standard high school curriculum, and 34 states required that these standards be implemented." They use data from each of these 44 states for their research.

So what does this really mean?

In only 13 of the 44 states is Personal Finance required to be taken, and even more alarming is of these 13 states only 4 states require it be taken as a stand alone semester long class for graduation. Further, most states do not even require course specific teacher training. So it is analogous to...

Assigning Social Studies teachers to teach Science without any training in Science.

Having Social Studies teachers integrate Science into Social Studies.

Then reporting through research that Science classes are a waste of time because students aren't learning Science effectively.

That point aside, if financial education was being tried, as policymakers believe it should be, and still failing, does that mean we should stop trying?

Just over half the voting age population exercises their right to vote. However, nobody is suggesting we should eliminate Civics from our curriculum. A large percentage of the population is overweight, yet nobody is suggesting we should eliminate health classes from our curriculum. Financial education is a course designed to help students better understand how they can better themselves financially through their own free will. Some students choose not to make wise financial choices, but that shouldn't mean we should stop empowering them with the knowledge to make a wise choice.

There is a great deal of research domestically, and internationally, that crystalizes the case for financial education. I will save sharing it for another time. For right now, I feel compelled to elaborate on questioning the premise of the adversarial position. I fear their position could lead to the slowing of a much needed effort to grow financial education in our schools, all based on research that collapses when you question it with common sense.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Why financial literacy belongs in our schools

On Friday night I was honored to receive the William A. Forbes Public Awareness Award, made possible by the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation to the Council for Economic Education. The award recognizes an individual who have advanced public awareness of the importance of economic and financial education.

I chose to make the most of my opportunity and advocate for the need for financial literacy. Here was my speech...

I am going to be blunt tonight, but truthful. I have mixed feelings about receiving this award. On one hand, I am deeply grateful to CEE, Nan and Mike McDowell of the Kazanjian Foundation for the recognition of my life’s passion and purpose. I am thankful to teach in Reading Community City Schools, a district who shares my passion, while being lucky enough to receive robust professional development support from Dr. Julie Heath and my local Economic Center at the University of Cincinnati. On the other hand, this award only exists because we need champions for a cause that Americans believe should be our educational duty. To be more specific, a recent Harris Survey found that "99% of U.S. Adults Support Personal Finance Teaching in High Schools", yet only four states have required it be taken as a stand-alone semester long high school graduation course. So while countries such as Russia and Great Britain are including it in compulsory education, we continue to pass hallow legislation that is absent many of the recommendations CFPB Director Cordray referenced in his speech on Thursday; that is of course if your state has passed any at all. For a country with our resources, and a culture that derives from a capitalistic spirit, this is unacceptable.

Practically speaking, if Personal Finance is not legislated as a stand-alone semester long graduation requirement taught by a trained teacher, the consistency and quality of the implementation of the course is spotty at best. Legislation should also include the K-12 integration of financial literacy concepts; the addition of personal finance questions into standardized tests; professional development for teachers that stresses learning through hands on experiences; and tools for parents to teach their children about money.

For a moment I’m going to pause and give thanks as a parent to those of you in the crowd who integrate financial literacy in the elementary and middle school grades. I am a father of two elementary children and a middle school child. My children, in particular my oldest two, are drawn to an economic and financial way of thinking. When their teachers integrate financial and economic literacy into their Math and English lessons, they better understand the Math and English content, and are further motivated to learn because it’s relevant to them. And as an educator, I am equally grateful as the concepts you are scaffolding at an early age prepare high school students to better understand the complexities of personal finance; a big thanks to each of you.

For those of you in the crowd who teach high school students, in particular 10th-12th graders, you know first-hand that we are providing a just-in-time financial education. Most of our students are making financial choices, and many have jobs; pay bills, pay taxes, have accounts at financial institutions; make car payments; pay insurance; and most importantly - - are preparing to make a student debt choice. Study after study indicates that the best time to provide financial education is when consumers are closest to making financial choices. For most 10th-12th graders, those opportunities exist now. Not only do we know it’s relevant, they know it’s relevant! For students who are neglected this education, year after year we continue to matriculate them into the University of Hard Knocks.

Before I move on, Mary Blanusa, if you would, please stand and be recognized for the tireless effort you have put into the CEE Advocacy program. 

I began by saying that I had mixed emotions about receiving tonight’s award; and a final reason is because education is a “WE” profession, not a “ME” profession. Our students can only be successful if our efforts are collective, and that includes advocating for financial literacy in our schools. So please use the Advocacy resources on the CEE website to lobby for financial education in your state. Every child deserves a financial education, and by the way, that includes special education children too.

We know young people today are facing financial distress. We know it impacts workers, and is a major factor in divorce. And we know that the 16 million American students currently living in poverty may not have voices yet, but we do. We may not be able to change the financial challenges our students face as children, but we can empower our students to tackle these challenges as adults. We owe it to all children to advocate for their financial education.

Thank you.

Go To Resource for Financial Literacy

I recently updated my comprehensive LiveBinder with a financial literacy research tab, as well as other resource additions. I put the LiveBinder together to generate one free go-to resource to help my fellow K-12 educators who are teaching or integrating financial literacy.

It includes national standards, tools and resources from various content associations and organizations, games, and content experts to follow. Be sure to click on each sub tab.

CEE Presentation 1: Tips and Tricks to Integrate Technology into Personal Finance

I presenting three times at the Council for Economic Education National Conference in Baltimore. The goals of my first presentation were:

• Share technology tips and tricks for a Personal Finance course that can be integrated into pre-existing lessons

• Share technology tips and tricks for a Personal Finance course that nudge student content understanding to appropriate financial behavior

Click here to download an overview of the presentation.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Lesson in Financial Reality

Our curriculum includes strategies to avoid and manage financial hardships. For perspective, here is one of the lessons from my classroom. This post is not an elaboration about managing financial hardships, but rather an opportunity to share one of my favorite simulations.

I believe our students need to understand the financial reality of living in poverty because it doesn't matter how financially literate they are; if they do not make any real money they are choosing between bad choices and worse choices.

PlaySpent is a free online simulation that does an excellent job illustrating to students what it is like to try to get by while living in poverty. PlaySpent may not be able to replicate the decision fatigue that accompanies living in poverty, but it does illustrate the injustice of what it is like to be a member of the working poor.

After the kids play, I try to stress to my classes that the best investment they can ever make is an investment in themselves. After all, having a lot of money makes it a lot easier to make wise financial choices.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ultimate Distraction Devices

This year our district is integrating a 1:1 iPad program, and is southwest Ohio's first public school district to do so. I am blessed to teach at Reading Community City Schools where our leadership found a way to make it possible for us to integrate technology into our classroom, and use technology in everyday instruction. I enjoy to learn through technology myself.

There are numerous resources available to help teachers prepare our students to use the various educational functions and tools iPads offer (thanks Jerry - @cybraryman!), as well as suggestions for integrating iPads into the classroom for the first time. The new application from Common Sense Media Graphite even allows educators to search for educator evaluated applications and technology resources with advanced search settings. I also like the latest post by Edutopia, Back to School with iPads: 5 Steps for the First 5 days

The goal of this post is to share the information from a presentation I made to my students about the how technology can be destructive to the learning process if it is not used appropriately. As one of my students said last year in reference to my laptops, these things are "A.D.D. devices." If we are not careful, and do not integrate metacognition skills in the integration of our technology devices, he could be correct.

I spent quite a bit of time this summer reading about how technology impacts learning, and here are the key "watch-outs" I felt most important to share with the kids. 

College students were asked to watch a 30-minute videotaped lecture. Some were sent eight text messages. Others were sent four or zero text messages. What the research found was...
  • Those who were interrupted more often scored worse on a test of the lecture’s content. 
  • Those who responded to the experimenters’ texts right away scored significantly worse than those participants who waited to reply until the lecture was over.
15 minute observations by Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University–Dominguez Hills found that...
  • Students’ “on-task behavior” was disrupted 2 minutes in, mainly responding to texts or checking Facebook. 
  • Students only spent 65 percent of the observation period actually doing their schoolwork. 
St. John’s University found through observation 58 percent of second- and third-year law students who had laptops in class were using them for “non-class purposes” more than half the time. The University of Vermont found that “students engage in substantial multitasking behavior with their laptops and have non-course-related software applications open and active about 42 percent of the time.” Technology has been cited in various studies as a distraction for surrounding students.

Checking social media/text messages draw on the same mental resources demanded by schoolwork. Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time.
  • Multitasking “can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources.”
  • There is a “lag” when switching from one task to the other.
  • Listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook uses the same area of the brain (prefrontal cortex).
Dropping and picking up mental threads leads to damaged mental threads and more mistakes.
  • Students’ subsequent memory of what they’re working on will be impaired if their attention is divided.
  • When we are distracted our brains process and store information differently, in less useful ways.
  • Multitasking with technology leads to “decision fatigue”.
These distractions are also real for adults, so this is a lifelong learning lesson for the students. Technology is a part of the 21st century labor force. Using technology effectively and efficiently, such as an iPad, is essential in the modern world if used as an empowering tool free of distractions. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why My Students Participate in Budget Challenge

I believe the Budget Challenge Personal Finance Simulation is the nation’s leading online financial simulation geared toward students to teach financial literacy in schools. The company seeks to change personal finance education from merely teaching concepts to applying them in realistic scenarios and practicing positive behaviors that reinforce sound money management.

They have been conducting simulations in classrooms since the 2007-2008 school year, when I was an original pilot. I am a big believer in the simulation. I feel it is the perfect tool for personal finance teachers to use to help bridge personal finance content with personal finance behavior. The three simulation advantages that are most important to my students are:
  • The simulation occurs outside of school hours, mirroring what it is like in real life to pay bills and make tough choices in their "down time".
  • The simulation rewards "gritty" and "persistent" students who are responsible enough to stay on top of their bills and budget, students whose positive financial behavior may not always be reflective in a traditional test.
  • The simulation ignites student prompted questions sometimes not covered in the curriculum.
Here is a video of the simulation in action.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Price of a Kindergarten Teacher

Our five year old daughter is our youngest of three children. She spends most of her time playing and competing with her two older brothers. As many would expect with such a dynamic, she is a gritty kid.

All three of our children are very different. My wife and I see special talents in each of them. Like any parent, we also worry.

This was their first week of school. Immediately after my daughter introduced herself to her teacher, she followed with "I'm usually mean or mad." Not the first impression we had hoped for, but one my wife had warned her teacher of before the start of the school year.

The last thing we want is for our daughter to go through life mad or identifying herself as mean.

I'm sure my daughter will test just fine. When we read together, she seems to pick up pretty quickly on words. She enjoys learning and adding numbers playing the princess iPad game (thanks Matt Gomez for the Twitter recommendation). So our concerns can never be quantified or measured with data.

We want our daughter to be happy. We want her to identify herself as happy and nice. In the years ahead, we want her to make society a better place personally and as a leader professionally. My daughter is a good kid, she just needs further nudges from others to help her down the path of our holistic vision of success.

On Friday I picked my kids up from school. As I was pulling them together I noticed my daughter's kindergarten teacher on both her knees, holding each of her hands, talking to my daughter; both were smiling from ear to ear. Her teacher pulled me to the side and told me how proud she was of her. For ten minutes she went on and on about how she included all of the children in her play, and how happy and nice she was for the duration of the day.

She explained to me how she handled my daughter's sometimes defiant personality. Her educated techniques were thoughtful and exactly what she needed. Equally as impressive is observing her demeanor with the kids as she masterfully builds their emotional intelligence.

We are blessed that Cincinnati Country Day prioritizes a whole child education. They have the means to keep classroom sizes small and are divorced from legislation that takes time and mind space from teachers to consider and tend to the individual needs of children like mine. They consider what kids need and assign them to teachers accordingly.

With that said, nobody is more valuable in her educational experiences than her teacher.

Despite our best efforts, our daughter began the school year looking in the mirror only to see a little five year-old girl who is often mad and mean, which could have been reinforced by a less trained teacher or a teacher in a different position when my daughter introduced herself on the first day of school. That was not the case because of a skillful, caring educator who instantly recognized the need to build my daughter's heart, not just her mind. 

How do you measure or put a price on that? 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Seeking Suggestions For "Nudging" Text Messages To Help Students

I am seeking text message suggestions to "nudge" high school students into the following three actions:

• Set a savings goal
• Open or add to your savings account to achieve your goal
• Contribute regularly to your savings account, ideally with a direct deposit

I am beginning the second round of a project I initiated last semester with great success. This time the project will be a national level collaborative effort (more to come later). Students will receive these text messages in conjunction with personal finance classes. 

Your input is welcome and desired. Keep in mind the messages must be 140 characters or less.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

5 financial security resources

Here are five great financial security resources to share with students and parents facing financial hardships.

For educators who teach in high poverty areas, these are particularly important to keep on hand. Parents often do not know where to turn when facing financial hardships, so they turn to teachers. We are not experts, but we can share these five experts with them...

PEW Consumer Financial Security is an independent non-profit organization is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

Operation Hope is a silver rights empowerment, making free enterprise work for everyone.  They accomplish this through our work on the ground as the nonprofit private banker for the working poor, the underserved and struggling middle class. 

CFED is a multi-faceted organization working at the local, state and federal levels to create economic opportunity that alleviates poverty.

Center for Responsible Lending is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that works to protect homeownership and family wealth by fighting predatory lending practices.

New America Foundation Asset Building Program is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Texting and Driving

The National Safety Council estimated that roughly 200,000 crashes in 2011 involved texting; and an AT&T Wireless survey found that 75 percent of teenagers say texting while driving is “common” among their friends.

"From One Second to the Next" is a 35 minute gut wrenching documentary every teenager should see. AT&T will be distributing this embedded documentary into 40,000 high schools. If you do not receive a hard copy you can still watch the documentary in it's entirety online.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

An Emotional TED on Bullying: "To This Day"

I showed this video to my students last spring. The student response varied from applause from those who appreciated his poetic gift to teary eyes from those who identified with his words. 

This is a must watch for every high school student. 

The best advice for helping students reflect on their futures

In this three minute illuminating video, British philosopher Alan Watts poses the question "What would you do if money were no object?"

On the surface the question seems a bit heedless. Yet each question ties together seamlessly to pull students into looking inward to reflect and realize that life's greatest joy could serve their futures.

By the way, there is a consensus answer to whether money can buy happiness, and it's not what you think.

So now the next time you see a hand raise and hear a student ask "How am I supposed to know what I should do when I grow up?", you have the ideal resource to motivate each student to look inward to discover their own answer.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Quiz For Kids Worth Taking

The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) is a private non-profit national foundation dedicated to inspiring empowered financial decision making for individuals and families through every stage of life. NEFE is a forward-thinking trustworthy resource you can rely on for a wide variety of financial education material. They are most widely recognized for their excellent free high school modules.

The particular tool I am motivated to share is a research based tool in NEFE's Smart About Money program, the Life Values Quiz. Students respond to a series of questions and responses categorize their values to explain what motivates them; what makes them happy. This is of particular importance early in a personal finance course as educators should lay the groundwork for establishing a student centered culture that connects financial literacy tools and concepts to individual students goals and values.

Here is how I integrate the tool in my classroom. 
- See more at:
The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) is the leading private nonprofit 501(c)(3) national foundation dedicated to inspiring empowered financial decision making for individuals and families through every stage of life.
- See more at:
The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) is the leading private nonprofit 501(c)(3) national foundation dedicated to inspiring empowered financial decision making for individuals and families through every stage of life.
- See more at:

5 classroom tips to nudge financial knowledge to behavior

My friend Dan Kadlec pointed out in this recent piece that "A growing body of research suggests that money reminders tweeted, texted, emailed or otherwise delivered through social media fall on receptive eyes." Kadlec also noted "A study led by Barbara O’Neill at the Rutgers Co-operative Extension found that Twitter and Facebook messages to adults raised awareness about money issues even if they didn’t always lead to behavioral change."

AmericaSaves are believers as well. This month they heavily promoted their "Pledge to Save" text messaging service. So let's incorporate these techniques into our pedagogy.

1. Remind101 is a safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents, and it's free! For the past couple of weeks I have sent a daily text message encouraging my students to set a savings goal, set up a savings account, and regularly contribute to a savings account (ideally through a direct deposit) to reach their goal.

2. Calendar reminders in their phones should be incorporated whenever possible. As an example, all of us should check our credit reports once a year for free at Have the students set a yearly reminder to do so beginning on their 18th birthdays. Another example is to set reminders for key FAFSA tasks on important dates as you introduce the students to the student aid process.

3. Parent checklists with resources for students and parents to explore together at home are a great way to share leading edge resources like the CFPB's Paying For College.

4. Classroom Twitter accounts can be used to send encouraging texts to save, links to valuable resources, and financial tips that are relevant to students now. If you would like a few ideas, here is my classroom Twitter account. We also have our own website and Pinterest page.

5. Student Twitter and other social media accounts can be utilized as resources to connect students with where to turn when they have questions after they graduate. For example, when we were working through the consumer protection unit, I encouraged students to follow the FTC, CFPB, and Ohio Attorney General. This, of course, was after the students utilized the resources on the government websites to deepen their understanding of the content.

Consumer Action Handbook just released the Consumer Action Handbook

This resource can be tapped for content in class, almost as a virtual textbook. Although I envision the most useful way to use the resource is directly with parents. The information is trust worthy, straight forward, and written in plain English.

Common Core Alignment Tool For Economic and Financial Literacy

The Council for Economic Education have aligned Common Core State Standards to selected publications. This is a useful resourceful for the integration of financial and economic literacy in Math and English and Language Arts, particularly as Common Core alignment is a transitioning to be a requirement across the country.

I added this resource to my favorite Common Core State Standard resources.

The new and improved MyMoney.Gov

MyMoney.Gov recently improved their website. MyMoney.Gov is the U.S. government's website dedicated to teaching all Americans the basics about financial education. Throughout the site, you will find important information from more than 20 Federal agencies and Bureaus designed to help you make smart financial choices.

What I like the most about the new site is the uploaded and interactive 2011 National Strategy For Financial Literacy test, which is an ideal resource for a practice final exam for a personal finance class.

Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), in collaboration with its partners, developed several educational programs and materials to help Canadians increase their financial and personal money management skills and knowledge.

FCAC materials and several other resources are available for free to educators and program facilitators. FCAC’s educational programs have been used across Canada in learning institutions, by community groups and within the workplace.

For my Canadian followers, please click here to learn more about the FCAC program.

Back to School Tools For Teaching Financial Literacy

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is building an Office of Financial Education. In the process, CFPB has created two useful tools for educators and students that need to make their way into our classrooms.

Ask CFPB allows the user to find posts focused on specific financial education content topics written in plain English, with the consumers best interest at heart. It can be used by students for scavenger hunts, research projects, jigsaw presentations, or as an anchor activity resource. Ask CFPB can be used by educators as a professional development resource to stay on top of the evolving and sometimes complex financial world.

Paying for College is my favorite tool, an interactive infographic guiding the user through the student loan process from beginning to end with excellent advice and resources. This tool should be the go-to resource for financial educators focusing on a student debt lesson, and certainly a resource guidance counselors should use and share with parents.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A missing education link to the labor force

A must watch interview with Mike Rowe from "Dirty Jobs". After watching this interview, click here if you are interested in how I integrate "Dirty Jobs" into my Careers lesson.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The "go-to" resource to teach kids online safety is the federal government’s website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online. The Federal Trade Commission manages it in partnership with multiple federal agencies. It is full of articles, video clips, and games. It is designed for parents, students, and teachers.

I love game-based learning because my students do, so my favorite part of the site is the Video and Media section which has thirteen short and engaging games introducing digital safety.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How we failed the Class of 2013

Our country has long prided itself on the idea that everyone gets a fair shot at the American dream. For the Class of 2013, this may not have been a reality. The quality of the education they received may have in large part been determined by the zip code they were born into, partially explaining why economic mobility in the United States is worse than most advanced economies throughout the world.

The inequality gap has also greatly widened for the world they are transitioning into. Inequality and mobility problems are complex and require a broad range of solutions. However, research correlates financial knowledge and wealth inequality, yet due to legislative failure in 46 states we have failed to adequately equip them with one common sense solution, a financial education.

So while they have attended school through a time when our public education system has had it’s funding gutted, European nations have made a dedicated effort to improve financial education. A matter of fact, financial literacy has now been added to the PISA.

There are a number of consequences of failing to provide a financial education, including our failure to equip students with basic knowledge to help them grapple with the postsecondary process.

Up to fifteen percent of students have chosen not to attend any kind of postsecondary program, even though they have been accepted into one. This is costly as high school graduates with associate’s degrees earn about 25 percent more than other high school graduates, and those with bachelor’s degrees earn over 50 percent more.

Clearly, a failure to understand the process, FASFA forms, and student debt contracts is a reason why. Ideas42 recently released a White Paper exploring reasons why, and providing behavioral finance suggestions worth exploring further.

“Many of the students most in need of financial aid are also some of the least likely to take advantage of the options available to them. Even though students with more grant aid and smaller loan burdens tend to persist at higher rates, one in four low-income students who qualify for Pell grants do not even apply for federal aid.”

So as the student debt bubble has grown to one trillion dollars, guidance departments are overwhelmed and understaffed with students who have never taken a basic personal finance course that introduces resources such as the CFPB’s Paying For College. Most students may not understand the maximum amount of student debt to take on, or that student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Yet we are expecting teenagers to make one of the most important financial decisions of their lives and have failed to provide them with the preparation they deserve to make wise and informed choices.

Dan Kadlec recently reported that Caroline Ratcliffe of the Urban Institute explained to the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission that educating students about student debt choices should be a priority, and added:

“But teaching financial literacy at younger ages is also critical. The earlier in life a person begins to build wealth, the more time those assets have to compound and become more valuable. So the key is to teach more people to make sound financial decisions earlier in life.”

The long-term impact of excessive student debt will impact many aspects of their lives in years to come. As the Federal Reserve recently reported, excessive student debt is coalescing into a financial anchor for current borrowers who want to move forward to purchase cars and homes.

We haven’t just failed preparing them for the postsecondary process, but to make practical financial choices. The FINRA survey released last week quantified many of the consequences of failing to provide students with an adequate financial education. What is particularly alarming is how little recent graduates save, as the consequences of inadequate emergency funds often lead to consumers using high interest credit products.

“Among those in the 18-29 age group, only 31 percent had set aside rainy day funds, while only 26 percent of those with annual incomes below $25,000 had such funds. As a result, many individuals and families would not be able to draw on personal financial resources if they were faced with an economic shock.”

Meanwhile banks are making a fortune from of our financial ignorance. The CFPB just reported that in 2011 the banking industry earned $12.6 billion in bank fees such as overdrafts and penalties.

For the Class of 2013, our legislative failure impacted the matriculation to postsecondary programs, their capability to comparison shop postsecondary financial offers, and understand the consequences of too much student debt. Most have never been exposed to the value of and knowhow to make basic personal finance choices such as starting an emergency savings account, investing for retirement, and building their credit scores early in their lives. 

So it looks like most from the Class of 2013 from 46 states will be learning these lessons from the school of hard knocks. Unfortunately, it will not be as easy to get up from the costly financial lessons they are about to learn as it used to be.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My closing letter to my students: I Passed Personal Finance, What's Next?

What happens after you pass Personal Finance? Does the knowledge you exhibited in your assessments and on your final examination guarantee you will live a financially sound life? Unfortunately it does not, because the financial choices you choose to make in the coming days, months, and years will be driven as much by your emotions as they will your knowledge.

So you passed Personal Finance, what's next? You have to bridge what you have learned to how you will apply it. To begin to do this you should first internalize that this course was not just another period in the day, but rather a series of tools and concepts that improved who you are and the choices you are capable of making.

Comparatively speaking, our overall test scores are competitive on a national level. Depending on which Personal Finance class you took, you have either passed a college level course or the first comprehensive semester long personal finance course of it's kind. You are capable of applying financial tools and concepts to your own goals that many adults do not even know exist. 

1. You are now the type of person who sets goals and makes wise and informed financial choices to reach your goals.

You understand the rewards and consequences of financial choices. You set financial goals for yourself and make choices to reach your goals. You will be motivated to make financially appropriate choices such as establishing three direct deposits once you get a job; a deposit into a dedicated emergency savings account, a deposit into a dedicated retirement account, and a deposit into your checking account...

2. You are now the type of person who knows how to put a financial plan into action.

People will recognize that you are studious and confident in the financial choices you make. You appear happy and secure to others... 

3. You are now the type of person who people identify as being financially savvy. 

Embracing and internalizing the previously outlined steps as a part of who you are matters, and is relevant to almost every aspect of your life. Let me explain... 

Imagine throwing a pebble deep into the center of a crystal clear pond. The result is ripples that wave one after another throughout the pond, deep from the center, slowly to the periphery.

Whether you want to hear it or not, your choice to both prepare for your final examination and apply what you have learned in this class to your everyday lives is much like the pebble hitting the pond. Your future financial choices will send a wave deep into every aspect of your life and the lives of others.

Your first wave will begin just after high school with your post-education choices and subsequent college debt. While at the same time, you will be testing your discipline with a credit card and future car debt.

Before you know it, you will be a young professional deciding whether to fill your bartenders’ pockets with your discretionary income or fill your own future pockets by adequately investing for retirement.

Sooner than you may imagine, it will shape your family’s quality of life and your subsequent peace of mind.

Eventually, it will guide your opportunity to reach financial freedom at a young enough age to enjoy retirement as others struggle to live on a fixed income, working well into their seventies.

In the periphery, lies the legacy for your future children, and your ability to prepare them for a world full of financial trickery and hidden wealth.

Just as the ripples in the pond get bigger and bigger, so will your financial responsibilities. Being financially responsible is not the result of a high school or college course, nor is it the result of being disciplined and conscience of your choices. It has to be both, and your financial education has to be ongoing.

Now as you have envisioned what you can expect as you move forward, I want you to imagine the waves of choices you will be faced with in a different lens. For a moment, envision shouldering a responsibility much greater than your own financial future. For this moment - - internalize your responsibility as a next generation American.

Our country desperately needs waves of economic change that will transform where we are and the direction we are heading. Our country needs a generation full of financially astute and responsible leadership that will guide us out of consumer and government debt massive enough to change the United States as we know it.

My challenge for you is to understand how to responsibly manage the waves of financial challenges that you will face throughout your life, while making waves for your country that will better the lives of the generations to come.

Let what you have learned in this course be the pebble that creates the first wave of change that we all need.