Guest Post from Melissa Wiese: My 1-year Sprint to the Gold Standard in Personal Finance

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Feb 11, 2020
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Advocacy

Melissa Wiese is a Personal Finance teacher from Reedsville High School in Reedsville, WI. Melissa's personal finance class is the 14th recipient of NGPF's Gold Standard Challenge grant of  $10,000, which will aid implementation of Melissa's school's new Personal Finance graduation requirement.

What got you excited to teach and advocate for personal finance?

Earlier in the fall of 2019, I attended a local NGPF FinCamp. As this was going to be my 1st year teaching Personal Finance at my small rural school as an elective, I was thrilled to meet educators from throughout my state who were teaching this subject and collaborating to make their courses more engaging, more relevant, and more popular with students. While in attendance at the Wisconsin FinCamp, I learned about the Gold Standard Challenge grant program, which got me thinking critically about what our school offers.

 

My big Aha! moment was comparing the coursework my school offered with some of the other Wisconsin high schools represented. This stark contrast inspired me to question, "what path should we really be on?"

What steps did you take to persuade your school to change its graduation requirements?

Currently, in the neighborhood of financial education, our school's graduation requirement is for every student to take either Introduction to Economics or Economics. While I realize the importance of the concepts learned in Economics classes, I have not gotten the sense that students feel either course is totally relevant for their lives after high school. While a foundation in Economics concepts can help a college-bound high schooler who ends up concentrating in Economics or Business, most students get little from the course that they can actually use in their real lives. And they talk about it! Every year I've been at my school, students have questioned why they all need to learn about supply and demand curves when they really would like to know how to do their taxes or read a credit statement.

Once I returned to school after the FinCamp, I introduced my administration to the Gold Standard Challenge. I approached the opportunity with a simple question: "Do we want all students to take a class that only helps some of them or do we want to build skills in all of our students that will help them today and throughout their lives?"

My question appears to have struck a chord! The process accelerated soon thereafter.

  1. My administration team agreed with the notion, and they said they would present the idea at the November board meeting for discussion.
  2. During the November meeting, without reserve, the school board was also completely on board with replacing Economics with Personal Finance.
  3. The proposal was scheduled for a formal vote for the December meeting.
  4. In December, my proposal to change graduation requirements passed with a vote of 5-0 to have Personal Finance become our new graduation requirement.

What roadblocks did you face, and what was the catalyst for the ultimate change to graduation requirements?

After reading many guest blog posts from fellow Mission: 2030 advocates on the NGPF website, I think that I am one of the lucky ones...

  • My administration was on board from the start,
  • I am surrounded by a board that trusts and supports me and my class, and
  • my students were the original impetus for the change. It'd be hard to say no to them!

I feel fortunate that I had a relatively less painstaking road to get the graduation requirement in place than I have read from other teachers, but I believe in all my fellow Gold Standard Challengers. Keep fighting for the graduation requirement in your schools - you got it!

What's next for Reedsville High School?

The graduation requirement for Personal Finance goes into effect at the start of the 2020-2021 school year for the entering freshman class (the class of 2024). I can't wait to get started!

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