Results Summary

The grading system is based on the belief, that, at a minimum, all high school students should be required to take a course that includes personal finance topics-even if these topics are just a modest part of the overall course offering. If a state did not meet this standard, it was given a grade of C, D or F.  The grading system recognizes the reality that a standalone high school personal finance course is often difficult to achieve.   Many local and state governmental organizations take the position that adding a personal finance course requirement is just not possible.

Summary of Grades

States by the Grade

A 7 14% Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.
B 13 26% Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.
C 8 16% Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
D 11 22% Florida, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wyoming.
F 11 22% Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Washington.

Virginia, Utah, Tennessee and Missouri are the only states earning an A that require a one-semester standalone course in personal finance as a graduation requirement.  Tennessee also requires that students be given an assessment on personal finance. Georgia, Idaho and Louisiana offer personal finance instruction as part of another course offering and they also require student assessments on financial literacy topics. 

In this category, all states have personal finance topics in their instructional guidelines, require local school districts to implement the guidelines, and require financial literacy instruction as a high school graduation requirement either as a standalone course or as part of another course offering. Some of these states also require that the course include a formal personal finance assessment test given to all students.

Colorado and Kansas were given a B because they required personal finance topics to be embedded in high school mathematics courses and also included these topics in high school mathematics assessment exams.

Generally, states with a B grade have personal finance topics in their instructional guidelines, and require local school districts to implement them. To graduate from high school in a B state, a student must take a course that includes personal finance topics.

These states require personal finance topics and often embed them in civics, economics, family and consumer sciences, business or mathematics courses.

Two states earned a C grade because they require that each high school offer a personal finance course as an elective. This at least gives students and parents the choice of taking such a course.  Other states were given the grade of C because they require specific personal finance topics to be taught in high school.  However, it is left up to the local school board to determine how and where to integrate these topics into the classroom.  It also is not clear how the state determines if the local schools are in fact meeting these requirements. 

Those states receiving a D grade require that personal finance topics be included in instructional guidelines and requires that the school districts implement them.  But the content requirements vary greatly, and schools are not instructed to include the topics in any course needed for graduation. In Grade D states, personal finance concepts are often taught in electives courses, if they are taught at all.  How and if these standards are implemented is left up to the school districts.   It is not clear how the states ensure that the schools teach these topics in the classroom.

Wisconsin was raised from a D to a C, earning extra credit for creating an Office of Financial Literacy in 2000 and a Governor's Council on Financial Literacy in 2010, which gives awards and grants to individuals and corporation for financial literacy education activities.  But, according to the Council, 75 percent of Wisconsin school districts do not have a one semester financial literacy requirement.  For 10 years, Wisconsin has hosted the National Institute on Financial & Economic Literacy, which has provided teacher training to more than 700 teachers and has an on-line teacher training program.  Wisconsin also created Model Academic Standards for Personal Financial Literacy for school districts to use when implementing financial literacy curriculum into their classrooms.    

The states that flunked have done very little to ensure that personal finance topics are taught in their schools.  Some don't even include personal finance in their educational standards.  Others include financial sophistication topics in their guidelines of what should be taught, but they do not require that local school districts actually teach them.