Report: Prepped for Success

Champlain College Study Finds Well-Trained Teachers Key to Financially Literate High School Students

Center For Financial Literacy Launches Teacher-Created Resource Web Site

(Burlington, Vt.. Dec. 15, 2015) -- A study released by Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy (CFL) shows that the financial literacy skills of high school students improved dramatically when they were taught by teachers who received specialized training in a graduate-level course on how to teach personal finance to teenagers.

The Champlain study, titled "Prepped for Success," notes that high school students taught by trained teachers were way ahead of their peers in financial sophistication skills. Students even outpaced more life-experienced Millennials (ages 18 to 34) and performed nearly as well as older, financially savvy Generation X individuals ages 35 to 49.

Financial Literacy Comparison Chart

"High school students face important, life-changing decisions regarding college loans, use of credit, rents and more, so it is vital to give them a solid financial literacy base to work from. And we know from our 2015 “Making the Grade” report card release earlier this fall that graded personal finance teaching in high schools across our nation that we can and should do a much better job" says John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College.

Champlain College President Donald J. Laackman praised the innovative efforts of the Center, noting that this new study's results are being released on the fifth anniversary of the formation of the CFL. "The Center for Financial Literacy, under John's leadership, has accomplished so much in a short time. The CFL created the curriculum for the graduate-level teacher course which ran for three years and then evaluated the effectiveness of the program. We are here today to celebrate that accomplishment, and to begin taking the next steps in educating all our young people to be more financially literate. We believe it is vital to the long-term health of our economy, both in Vermont and the nation, to have educated consumers able to make the best choices when it comes to managing their money, investing wisely and making sound financial decisions," Laackman said.

"We have piloted an innovative teacher-training program in Vermont to address that skills need, and as the results of this study show, training teachers works and can significantly improve the financial literacy skills for high school-age students," Pelletier said.

All of the educators who participated in the study completed a 45-hour graduate level course offered by Champlain. Prior to the course, 39 percent of those teachers said they felt that they had the knowledge to effectively teach personal finance. Upon completion, 94 percent of the participants said they felt confident in their knowledge and abilities to go back to the classroom and effectively do the job.

"The summer institute (at Champlain) immersed my classmates and me in personal finance content that we are passing along to students, and provided a network of financial literacy teachers," said George Cook, who teaches at U-32 High School in East Montpelier. "Our goal at U-32 is to give our students real-life learning experiences, and it does not get more real world than personal finance. Now the school board has made our course a graduation requirement for all students. I believe that the biggest value has been an increase in awareness in our community about the importance of personal finance, and the most important outcome has been that our students understand that personal finance is a mindset and a discipline, as well as an area of study."

For the study, some 800 Vermont high school students were given a baseline and follow-up test in personal finance knowledge and skills. One group of students received formal personal finance instruction by CFL-trained teachers, and the other group received no instruction.

Average Performance Across 5 Topics

"Champlain's study confirms that the combination of highly trained teachers and formal education makes a difference," said Billy J. Hensley, senior director of education for the National Endowment for Financial Education, which provided guidance and in-kind support on research methodology. "And the difference is that these students now have the foundational knowledge that will help them start out their financial lives at a higher standard, which we anticipate will position them to achieve financial well-being over their lifetimes."

Along with the study, Pelletier worked with a CFL-trained teachers to develop, a professional learning community website offering personal finance education resource recommendations. "The site gives high school educators access to the peer-recommended resources that they need to confidently and successfully teach financial literacy concepts in their classrooms," Pelletier explained. There is no remuneration from any firm with regard to the resources highlighted on the site.

The CFL study was sponsored by the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, National Life Group; Merchants Bank; Champlain Investment Partners, LLC; Northfield Savings Bank; Vermont Mutual Insurance Group and other private donors.

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