Mission 2030 Guest Post: Kimberly LaDuke Reinstates a Personal Finance Graduation Requirement
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
Kimberly LaDuke is an educator at Ellington High School in Ellington, Connecticut. Their school is the 99th recipient of the Gold Standard Challenge grant. Here is Kimberly describing Ellington High School’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?
The business department at my high school began requesting a personal finance graduation requirement back in 2011/12. We already had a half-year graduation requirement for our Computer Applications course so in 2014 board policy was changed to include Personal Finance as a business department OPTION to fulfill the graduation requirement. Students beginning with the graduating class of 2018 could choose Personal Finance or Computer Applications. Then in the school year 2018/19 the Board of Ed adopted the state guidelines for high school graduation requirements and Personal Finance, or any business course, was not included as a requirement at the state level, so we lost the requirement at our school.
For the next two years, my two department colleagues and I pushed back to our principal to get the Personal Finance course requirement reinstated. Of course, the principal has numerous topics and tasks to address to the BOE so it wasn’t addressed right away, and then the pandemic sent us all home for the remainder of last year and it was not addressed. So Fall of 2020 I began the conversation with my principal again about getting our Personal Finance course back in the policy as a graduation requirement and I designed the school pitch slide show (thanks to NGPF for providing the template) to be shared with the district administration. By December of 2020, the request had been approved first by the district curriculum committee and then by the board members. So a one-semester (.5 credit) Personal Finance course is required by all students beginning with the freshman starting this fall, the class of 2025.
What challenges did you encounter in your efforts to make personal finance a graduation requirement, and what solutions did you find for these challenges?
The whole thing was just very frustrating that the BOE had once deemed the course necessary but then removed it because the state guidelines did not show it as a requirement. The challenge was lobbying once again to school and district administration to get it back on their radar and for them to value the importance of the course. The solution was consistency and follow through with my principal to put the request into the Board.
What/who were the "catalysts for change" that allowed your efforts to be successful?
I guess I was the key catalyst for change as I was the one to keep revisiting the request and talking to my principal about it and putting together the school pitch slides. My department colleagues and I discussed the proposal at length and we all agreed on promoting the course as a requirement, I just did most of the leg work! Our students were also catalysts for me to keep motivated as many of them would tell me how invaluable the course was and believed the course should be required; I wanted to get the requirement back because it was critical for the students.
Which stakeholders (students, parents, admin, business leaders, school board, etc) were helpful partners in your quest to make the graduation requirement happen?
Our most important and helpful stakeholder was our school principal. He did not agree with the removal of the requirement in the first place and vowed to help us get it back right from the start. He was invaluable because he supported the course and our department and had the right connections to get it done. Other helpful partners were many parents and students who supported the course being necessary and worthwhile and would talk about it to other parents and students. And the Curriculum Committee members and Board of Ed, which includes parents, were both helpful because they were very receptive and agreeable to the request.