Guest Post from Dr. Diane Schumacher of Iowa City Schools: the first multi-high school district to take on the Gold Standard Challenge!

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Apr 28, 2020
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Advocacy

Today's guest author Dr. Diane Schumacher is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Iowa City Community School District in Iowa City, IA. Dr. Schumacher's district is the first multi-high school district in the nation to receive a Gold Standard Challenge grant from NGPF. They did so by converting to what we affectionately call the "Gold Standard" in financial instruction: a comprehensive, standalone personal finance course of at least one semester that ALL students take before crossing the graduation stage.

Read Dr. Schumacher's post to get inspired by a leader who listened to what the expert teachers on the front lines of building financial capability for students were telling her.

What led to Personal Finance being required for all students in your district?

In the summer of 2018, the state of Iowa legislature established financial literacy instruction as a graduation requirement, beginning with the graduating class of 2021. However, it was left up to individual school districts, with guidance from the Iowa Dept. of Education, how to fulfill the graduation requirement. Here's the guidance, which says Iowa high schools must teach personal finance coursework that meets all of the personal finance standards, but how each school district accomplished this is up to us.

The response of many districts across the state was to try to infuse this instruction within existing graduation requirements.

Our district considered this option, but quickly decided that the responsibility to ensure fidelity of the financial literacy objectives was too immense to be infused into an already full curriculum, thus it was decided to add an addition graduation requirement in the version of a course called "Personal Finance."

Which stakeholders were helpful in your quest?

Teachers were really helpful! Iowa City Social Studies and Business department teachers collaborated across departments to determine which financial literacy objectives were already being taught within our current Economics graduation requirement and which would be taught within the new Personal Finance graduation requirement. Open lines of communication between teachers and with the district were key to this process running smoothly.

Furthermore, our Business department took this initiative one step further by creating a high school Personal Finance course that earns students college credit. The course will be offered to our students by our business instructors, who all have masters degrees in business education, which help them meet the qualifications to teach the course at the college level.

What was the catalyst for change that made you decide to go with standalone vs. embedded?

I would say our main catalysts for change were our expert business teachers, who advocated for the Personal Finance course being taught within their department as a standalone graduation requirement for all students. Once we knew there was teacher buy-in to require this instruction as a standalone course, the decision about how to react to the new statewide regulations was significantly simpler.

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