It was Stephen Covey who coined the phrase “Begin with the end in mind,” his second of seven habits of highly effective people. This is an effective approach to develop a specific system designed to achieve a specific end goal.
Unfortunately, most public school districts do not have the autonomy to do this, as their end goal is often what is reported on the state report card. In Ohio, the first page of our state report card reports 24 test scores from grades 3 to 10, the attendance rate, the graduation rate, adequate yearly progress, a performance index, a value-added measure and a district designation based on these indicators. Here’s just one example.
I am a business education teacher and primarily teach personal finance. I also teach AP macroeconomics, general business, and an entrepreneurship course. I have read a lot about the circumstances surrounding the financial collapse, as well as our legislative choices transitioning out of it. The recovery from our financial collapse is being experienced by some, but not all. Economic inequality is rising to levels we haven’t experienced since the Gilded Age. Sadly, austerity measures continue to broaden inequality of education, which as this graph by the OECD points out, perpetuates the problem of rising economic inequality for future generations.
I have friends who teach art, music, foreign languages, gifted education and physical education. The world’s most respected education minds stress the importance of these subjects, many of which are most important in the elementary years. Yet, these are the subjects being expunged from our schools. Austerity measures are forcing districts to defund subjects not tested as part of the district report card. Bear in mind what is tested and how it is measured is dictated by legislators, not by educators.
What if our state report cards looked different? What if our state report cards were a checklist of curriculum taught at each grade level that was in line with what education leaders and society believe is most important? What if our state report card included a checklist of technology infrastructure, student-teacher ratios, teacher backgrounds and a dedication to innovation? What if the per-pupil expenditure was looked at as an investment in our future as opposed to waste available to cut or dollars free to grab and profit from? What would our schools look and feel like for our students and teachers?
My point pertains to my particular passion, financial education. I understand there is no silver bullet for eradicating poverty. However, graduating students with strong financial literacy skills would be helpful ammunition. According to a Visa survey, more than 9 in 10 parents agree. There are a number of reasons and data points illustrating the need for personal finance in our schools, many of which can be found in this “Did You Know” video.
Providing future generations with a financial education is not easily done. According to this comprehensive NEFE study, most teachers believe it should be a high-school graduation requirement but that they do not feel qualified to teach the course. Educators need a financial education themselves. We have the power to provide one, but do we have the will? For many states, it will probably depend on what the district report card is legislated to report.
Brian Page (@FinEdChat) was the recipient of the Ohio Department of Education Milken National Educator Award and was a 2012 Money magazine “Money Hero.” He teaches financial education and economics with Reading Community City Schools and serves as an Outreach Director with Cincinnati United.