Networks publishes survey of K-12 financial literacy practices

May 18 2007

INDIANAPOLIS • A national study commissioned by Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University shows that approximately one-half of U.S. K-12 teachers incorporate some type of financial literacy content into their classroom instruction.

The study surveyed 650 teachers to assess their interpretation of what “financial literacy” means and how they are incorporating financial literacy into their teaching. Additionally, the study yielded information on the challenges and barriers teachers confront in accessing financial literacy learning materials, while making the case for some new approaches to delivering financial literacy education.

Teachers value financial literacy instruction

More than 60 percent of teacher respondents surveyed were familiar with financial literacy, defined as “the ability to make informed judgments and effective decisions regarding the use and management of money.” High school math teachers were most familiar with financial literacy, with K-5 teachers being least familiar. Overall, the survey indicated that financial literacy knowledge varies considerably among teachers, presenting significant opportunity for improvement.

Regardless of their knowledge level, teachers indicated that teaching financial literacy is important. Among middle school and high school teachers, 95 percent indicated financial literacy is “important to teach.”

What challenges are impeding teachers financial literacy efforts'

Among those teachers that reported not including financial literacy in their instruction, 58 percent cited the lack of a state requirement as the primary reason. Other factors cited as hindering financial literacy instruction included lack of time and lack of demand. In fact, 99 percent of teachers who did not teach financial literacy reported that within the past year they had not been asked to consider teaching financial literacy topics.

Challenges also were reported by those teachers that do incorporate financial literacy into their curriculum. A lack of time was cited as the largest barrier, followed by no state requirement and a lack of demand. Despite the reported lack of demand, the majority of teacher respondents • 73 percent - indicated that it is important to have academic standards related to financial literacy.

These respondents defended the need for academic standards tied to financial literacy for several reasons, including that many young people do not know how to manage credit or avoid debt. Teachers also reported that an understanding of financial literacy issues would better prepare young people for making sound economic decisions later in life.

The 27 percent of teachers that did not consider financial literacy to be an important part of state standards defended their perspectives by citing: financial literacy should be taught at home, the school day lacks sufficient time to include financial literacy education; and financial literacy is an elective, non-compulsory component of education.

What money management concepts are being taught in the classroom'

The most popular financial literacy component reported by teachers was “saving.” Spending money, budgeting and banking were also frequently reported components of financial literacy instruction. Elementary teachers in grades K-5 focused on basic saving and spending as well as wants/need differentiation. Higher level concepts such as investing, credit and financial planning were more likely to be included in high school classes. The least commonly discussed areas of financial literacy were insurance, investing, financial planning and consumer rights.

Financial literacy was not limited to math curriculum, but was incorporated into social studies, family and consumer sciences and business education.

What resources do teachers rely on'

Teachers reported relying on a combination of financial literacy materials including pre-developed programs and self-created lesson plans. Books, CDs, DVDs and videos were among the resources cited, along with exercises and market simulation experiments. About one-fifth of those teachers including financial literacy in their instruction relied on printed sources from the National Council on Economic Education or Junior Achievement. K-12 teachers also reported consulting online sources such as search engines. About one-fourth of teachers cited ERIC and MyMoney.gov as online sources.

While teachers indicated that financial literacy resources were generally valuable, one-on-one interviews reveal that most teachers customize the content to fit the needs of their students. When asked what financial literacy resources are missing, teachers expressed a desire for more real-life simulation applications, hands-on activities, credit/debit card exercises and materials for students in the primary grades.

Measuring success of financial literacy efforts

Only about half • 49 percent - of K-12 teachers use formal assessments to evaluate their students’ financial literacy progress. Evaluation instruments included checkbook balancing, budgeting and tax form completion exercises incorporated into tests and quizzes.

Research supports the need for innovative approaches to financial literacy

David Godsted, director of financial literacy at Networks Financial Institute, said that teachers’ feedback regarding the challenges of incorporating financial literacy into the classroom closely mirror the results of 2004-05 Indiana research also commissioned by Networks Financial Institute. The \\\"Kids Count on the Money Bus\\\" curriculum was introduced in 2006 to provide a mobile, financial literacy resource for elementary teachers. Beyond mobility, the Money Bus provides the hands-on, interactive, “real-life” experiences that teachers find particularly effective in today’s classroom.

“The Money Bus is truly a custom application that addresses both the challenges teachers face in delivering financial literacy information as well as providing the technology and interactivity that drives much of today’s learning,” Godsted said.

About the Survey

Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University commissioned Market Vibes Research to conduct the survey. The findings serve as an initial benchmark of K-12 teachers’ attitudes and behaviors regarding financial literacy education. The survey was also designed to serve as an inventory of educators’ awareness of financial literacy resources.

“The data gathered from the survey clearly indicates that educators believe in the importance of financial literacy, but that they also find several challenges in identifying and accessing resources to help them in this area,” said Godsted. “This survey helps to make a case for supporting initiatives that in turn can better prepare teachers to deliver financial literacy instruction.”

The survey is available at Financial Literacy Study

About Networks Financial Institute

Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University was founded in 2003 with a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. The non-profit organization strives to facilitate a more effective national and international financial services marketplace through education, outreach and research. Networks Financial Institute is headquartered in Indianapolis with offices on the campus of Indiana State University in Terre Haute and outreach in Washington, D.C., and internationally. For more information about Networks Financial Institute, visit www.networksfinancialinstitute.org.

Writer: Susan Miller, (317) 816-9760, extension 247, or smiller@hickmanassociates.com

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Story Highlights

A national study commissioned by Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University shows that approximately one-half of U.S. K-12 teachers incorporate some type of financial literacy content into their classroom instruction. The study also revealed the barriers teachers list to providing such curriculum as well as the challenges faced in doing so.

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