Maryland and Utah take top honors
Two states show us that personal finance can be taught effectively at the high school level. Maryland earned a B on the latest report card and was number 10 on our recent top 10 list. Maryland’s approach to financial education is the best in the country for states with a high level of local school district control over education. The state requires robust personal finance topics to be taught in high school, but local districts are allowed to determine how these topics are integrated into the curriculum.
Each year, school districts inform the Maryland Department of Education on the methods being used to meet the state’s high school personal finance requirement. It is difficult to measure hours of instruction since each school district decides how to meet the requirement, and it is unclear how or whether the state measures student proficiency.
The best model is Utah—the only state to receive an A+. Utah requires that all high school students take a half-year course exclusively dedicated to personal finance topics, and students are required to take an end-of-course assessment examination created and administered by the state.
Utah requires educators to be trained in teaching personal finance, and the state provides teachers with resources and professional development opportunities. Essentially, financial literacy is a funded mandate in Utah.
I believe that personal finance education should start early in the home, and that more states should require the subject in elementary and middle school. In today’s world, it’s a subject as important as math and reading.
To learn math, you start with counting, move on to addition and subtraction, and then on to division and multiplication. You need to learn letters before you can read. Personal finance education also should be a cumulative process, with age-appropriate topics taught each school year.