Mission 2030 Guest Post: Michael Cassidy Makes Personal Finance a Requirement for 8th Graders
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
Michael Cassidy is an educator at Mount Horeb High School in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Their school’s personal finance program is the 44th recipient of NGPF’s Gold Standard Challenge grant. Here is Michael in their own words describing Mount Horeb’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?
To get Personal Finance approved as a graduation requirement was close to a 3-year process. We met in 2017 to discuss how we wanted to proceed with Personal Finance and how we thought it best fit our district. The decision, at that time, was to offer Personal Finance in the 2018 - 2019 school year and to pilot the class for 1 year. We conducted a very successful 1-year pilot but felt that 2 years of information would hold more weight and help solidify our stance with the Board of Education.
As noted, our first year was a very successful year but we wanted to make sure that there was a real need for this class. We wanted to make sure the success was not just because the course was being newly offered. The 2019 - 2020 results were just as impressive and in some instances even more impressive than the year 1 results from the 2018 - 2019 school year.
What challenges did you encounter in your efforts to make personal finance a graduation requirement, and what solutions did you find for these challenges?
I think the first hurdle to overcome was moving this class from a perceived elective to a requirement. Students come into high school with an academic plan and to offer new courses and state they are required would be unfair to a great number of students. This is why we landed on making it a graduation requirement for current 8th-grade students.
Another challenge was from a staffing perspective in regards to what department would teach the class. There were several departments vying for the course and it came down to whether it would be best to be taught in Social Studies or Business Education. We made a bold decision that the course could be taught in either department and we identified a number of qualified and licensed teachers who would handle that responsibility.
What/who were the "catalysts for change" that allowed your efforts to be successful?
Making certain Personal Finance became a required graduation credit was an incredibly collaborative effort led by our Director of Instruction Sarah Straka. From the very beginning, she was instrumental in getting the right parties involved and keeping our efforts moving ahead.
Our guidance department at the time was run by Mark Clark who along with Sarah Straka kept in contact with those who ran the pilot courses and marketed this course for our students as well as the community. Mark met with senior classes for 2 straight years to talk about the benefits of such a class and this lead to a high enrollment level. The number of students enrolled in this class was helpful in convincing the school board we were headed in the right direction.
The last catalyst appeared this year as we hired a new principal this year, Cody Lundquist and he was able to make one last push and support the class enough to get this in front of the school board for approval.