Class requirement makes cents

Published 10:36 pm Friday, July 19, 2013

A state-mandated economics and personal finance course is preparing high school students for real life, a Suffolk Public Schools official says.

Reflecting on Virginia’s decision to make economics and personal finance a requirement for a standard or advanced diploma, effective for students entering the ninth grade in 2011-2012, the school district’s career and technical education coordinator, Gail Bess, said, “I think it’s a good thing.”

“When you look at the state of the economy and the challenges we have had as a nation … I think it’s important students understand how economies work,” she said.

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Virginia was one of seven states to receive an “A” in a national study of efforts to increase the financial literacy of students.

The Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy’s National Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools also cited Virginia, alongside Missouri, Tennessee and Utah, for mandating a financial literacy course as a graduation requirement.

“The General Assembly and Board of Education have long recognized the importance of financial literacy for commonwealth students,” Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction, Patricia I. Wright, stated in a news release.

“The global economic downturn a few years ago confirmed the need for students to understand how markets operate. In taking this course, graduates receive knowledge to help them manage their money and become better consumers, savers, investors, entrepreneurs and active citizens in our global economy.”

Suffolk Public Schools had an elective class meeting the requirement, bar one objective, already in place, Bess said.

“We took that curriculum we were already teaching and we added what was missing, which was one objective,” she said.

“We offered that course as an elective many, many years before that initiative,” but it was not a top-10 elective course in terms of student popularity.

“Enrollment was very small,” Bess said. “When you look at the course title, it’s not the kind of thing that jumps out at young people.”

With the influx of new students and a tight district budget, Suffolk Public Schools offers the course via both traditional face-to-face teaching and a virtual format, Bess said.

“They learn about money management, spending, saving and investing,” as well as concepts like supply and demand, she said.

“Considering where we are as a state and as a nation, it’s extremely important for students.”