Board ponders financial literacy question
ShareThisWednesday, February 2, 2011 10:51 AM
By CANDY BROOKS

ThisWeek Community Newspapers
Should Worthington students be required to take a course in financial literacy?
The answer to that question may not be a simple as it seems, and the Worthington Board of Education would like some help from the community as it struggles to make the right choice.

Board members and administrators have been wrangling over an answer for more than a year. Some board members want every graduate to complete a semester-long financial literacy course, others say the important lessons can be learned in other, already required classes.

And, of course, adding yet another course to the high school curriculum would more than likely cost taxpayers money.

"This is and of itself is a challenge in financial literacy," said Jennifer Wene, director of academic achievement and professional development.

As a result of House Bill 1 (HB1), which overhauled some of the state's education requirements, all districts are now required to offer instruction in economics and financial literacy during high school years.

How that is accomplished is not mandated.

While some agree with board president Marc Schare that a dedicated course is necessary, others, like Wene, believe the needed information and skills can be covered in other classes.

Over the past year, teachers have worked to look at what is important to teach, and how to ensure that it is embedded in already required middle school and high school government classes.

Personal financial knowledge is also embedded in certain business classes, family and consumer science and a new course called Financial Algebra.

That is not enough for Schare.

"I believe that we must do all we can to arm our graduates with the knowledge necessary to make good financial choices as they start college or enter the workforce," Schare wrote in a recent blog.

Schare is not giving enough credit to the teachers who modified the current curriculum to ensure that the necessary lessons are taught to all students, said Wene.

Adding a requirement would cost money and would mean students would not be able to take as many electives in areas like social studies, English and fine arts.

In a time of declining resources, it is a real challenge to find a way to add teaching positions, she said.

And surveys repeatedly show that the community values the abundance of electives students can study in high school.

With mathematics requirements increasing from three units to four units for the classes of 2014 and beyond, the number of elective units will already decrease from six to five.

If the board does opt to add a financial literacy course as a graduation requirement, it might be a good idea to take a look at all of the graduation requirements rather than to just add one, Wene said.

"It kind of forces you to look at the whole question," she said.