Mission 2030 Guest Post: Angela Snakenberg's School Wanted to Provide an Alternative to a Third Year of Math and Personal Finance Was the Solution
The following post is one in a series of inspiring stories from NGPF's Gold Standard Challenge Grant Program which incentivizes high schools and districts to commit to ALL students taking personal finance courses before graduation. Learn more, and apply for your $2,500 to $30,000 Gold Standard Challenge Grant before the August 31, 2022 deadline here.
About Today's Guest Author
Angela Snakenberg is an educator at Hillcrest Academy in Kalona, Iowa. Their school is the 154th recipient of the Gold Standard Challenge grant. Here is Angela describing Hillcrest’s journey to the Gold Standard.
Describe a rough timeline for how you and/or your colleagues were able to advocate for personal finance to become a graduation requirement in your school/district. How long did it take? What were the major progress milestones?
A semester course in Personal Finance has been offered through the math department for the past ten years. A group of parents suggested that we offer Personal Finance and also provided an option for a third year of math for those students not interested in Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus. The interest in taking this course has been consistent over this time. In the fall of 2019, our counselor, principal, and myself (the business teacher) had a conversation regarding the new Iowa law that required personal finance topic instruction. In Iowa, these requirements can be met in a variety of classes, and schools are not required to offer a standalone personal finance course. In the spring of 2020, we met again and determined that continuing to offer a semester course in Personal Finance but making it a graduation requirement would be the best option for our school. The school board was approached with approving this in June 2020.
What challenges did you encounter in your efforts to make personal finance a graduation requirement, and what solutions did you find for these challenges?
As a small school, the biggest challenge we faced was determining the logistics of what grade level they would be required to take the course and where it would fit into their schedules. For the 2020-2021 school year we had sophomores take the course. Although these students worked hard and learned a lot, it felt like they were a step removed from the concepts as many did not have a job or many money responsibilities. For the 2021-2022 school year, we moved the course to a junior/senior-level course.
What/who were the "catalysts for change" that allowed your efforts to be successful?
In 2009, a group of parents advocated for the school to offer a Personal Finance course. It has been taught every year since 2010 with an average of 12 students taking advantage of the course each year. Past math teacher, Lynn Yoder, worked hard over the past ten years to craft an excellent course using resources from many different sources to offer our students a curriculum relevant to the challenges they will face in the world of personal finance. The biggest catalyst for requiring the course for graduation was the new law that Iowa passed requiring personal finance topics to be taught to students before graduation. Having taught Personal Finance in my previous district as a standalone course, I had the opportunity to speak about the benefits of offering the course for an entire semester. There is so much valuable information students need to learn about Personal Finance and I believe that a minimum of a semester course should be required.
Which stakeholders (students, parents, admin, business leaders, school board, etc) were helpful partners in your quest to make the graduation requirement happen?
The principal, counselor, and school board were all very open to the idea of requiring a stand-alone course. Since we already have offered a semester course it seemed a natural transition to require it for all students in order to meet the new state graduation requirements.