Guest Post from Alana Eder of Oconto High School: The Gold Standard Of Financial Education Is Common Sense!
Alana Eder is a dedicated 2nd year personal finance teacher from Oconto High School in Oconto, Wisconsin. OHS is the 19th high school nationwide to receive a Gold Standard Challenge Grant from NGPF, because Alana partnered with her principal and school counselor to successfully persuade their school board to adopt a standalone semester-long personal finance course as a formal graduation requirement that ALL students take.
Here's Alana in her own words on why she made this push AND what it took to make this common sense change happen in her small high school.
How long have you been advocating for the course to become a requirement?
Here's what I said in a local press release about the grant: "“It’s truly an honor and privilege to be able to teach such an exciting and relevant course. There is a unique story behind each school, and mine started with Kerri Herrild, an NGPF Fellow and DePere Business teacher introducing me to NGPF's free curriculum. The story doesn’t end there, thanks to the support of our Administration and School Board. They committed to make Personal Finance a graduation requirement, and we were able to become an NGPF Gold Standard High School. It truly takes a village and I am extremely fortunate to be supported by and part of such an amazing one!”
Digging a little deeper, this is actually only my second year teaching at Oconto High School, but making personal finance a graduation requirement for all students was a change I was really excited to make on behalf of our students from when I met Kerri.
Our personal finance class, titled Career & Personal Finance was previously listed as a "required Sophomore class" but not as a formal graduation requirement. The way this worked was:
- the class was required for students to take during their sophomore year, but...
- if the class didn't fit in students' schedules - for whatever reason - the school didn't have any recourse...
- in fact, if students did not take the course during their sophomore year, they could still take it but missing it wouldn't hold them back from graduating.
Unfortunately, this loophole allowed several students every year to "slip through the cracks" without taking Career & Personal Finance.
I believed the course deserved more of a presence in our students' education. I believed (and still do) that ALL students can benefit from this incredibly impactful course, so I set out in the fall semester of 2019 with my Gold Standard Challenge plan to close the loophole. I'm thankful I didn't encounter a whole bunch of resistance, as most of the change I needed to make was in the formal details of who gets access to the course, rather than shuffling an entire school's priorities to accommodate personal finance.
It turned out I had a lot of support for this idea! Superintendent Emily Miller said it best in our press release: "This is a wonderful opportunity for our students. It aligns with our goal of bridging our students' learning to real life. It also supports our goal of providing pathways to our colleges. This course is eligible for college credit through the College Credit in High School (CCIHS) program through UWGB for FIN282-Personal Financial Planning, a 3 credit course.”
Who were the stakeholders who helped you get the change on the books?
Our high school principal, Adam DeWitt, in the few years I've been at the school, has been a strong advocate for making our Career & Personal Finance course a graduation requirement. This school year, our School Counselor also got in board, teaming up with Principal DeWitt to advocate for making the course a graduation requirement that can be taken any year by the students. Once the School Board heard the case from the Counselor and Principal, they were sold, and approved the change.
Starting with next year's freshmen, Career & Personal Finance will be required for all students, with no loophole to allow some students to miss out! I'm glad I took the steps to formalize the change, and found support among my colleagues and leadership at my school. If your school is in a similar situation, make the change!
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