A new report released in May finds that although a majority of K12 educators believe that financial literacy is an important content area that should be taught in schools, only a small minority feel qualified to teach it or have ever taught the topic in class.
The report, entitled Teachers' Background and Capacity to Teach Personal Finance, comes as a result of a two-year study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Wendy L. Way and Karen Holden and funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). The researchers surveyed 1,200 K12 educators, as well as prospective teachers pursuing their degree and professors of education, from eight states representing each region of the country.
According to the report, while some 89 percent of educators surveyed believe high school students should be required to take a financial education course or pass a financial exam in order to graduate, just 29.7 percent have ever taught the topic in class. Less than 20 percent feel they were "very competent" to teach financial skills, due in part to the fact that just 37 percent reported having taken a college course related to finance. And the study finds no generational link to this lack of training, as prospective teachers currently in school are statistically no more likely to have taken financial courses than longtime teachers who earned their degrees many years ago.
State legislation also appears to be ineffective. While 40 states have guidelines for including finance instruction in K12 coursework (up from 21 in 1998), 63.8 percent of teachers describe themselves as unqualified to teach their state's guidelines. Just 11.6 percent say they have attended professional development workshops on incorporating financial topics into their curriculum. But the survey's findings also illustrate a strong desire to improve the situation: Over 70 percent of educators say they would be willing to participate in formal professional development to learn strategies for teaching financial education to their students.
"This study reinforces the need to incorporate personal money management topics into educational opportunities for teachers, whether in undergraduate or graduate curricula for students studying to become teachers, or as postgraduate or in-service courses or workshops," says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. "We have an opportunity to dramatically affect the quality of K12 financial education by providing teachers with the subject matter expertise they need throughout their careers."
To read the full report, visit www.nefe.org.