Jan 04, 2022

Mission 2030 Guest Post: Michael Schaefer's School Exceeds State Standard With NGPF's Lessons

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 Schaefer is an educator at Sussex Academy in Georgetown, Delaware. Their school is the 158th recipient of the Gold Standard Challenge grant. Here is Michael describing Sussex’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?

I attended the Advocacy: $10k-$30k Gold Standard Grants PD on 11/30/20 and immediately began to advocate for the change to make the course a graduation requirement. Personal finance had been a unit in my economics class since I began teaching the class in 2017. Over the next several years, I routinely received notes, letters, and other feedback from students and alums about how much my class meant to them. Some even mentioned how they were interested in pursuing a career as a financial planner. This feedback added to my conviction about the importance of these types of courses and the impact they can have on a student's future. With this in mind, I began to advocate that the course be elevated to a stand-alone course and a graduation requirement.

I first consulted with my department head in early December of 2020. After several conversations between her and my high school head, we agreed on the importance of making personal finance a graduation requirement. As a teacher at a public charter school, making changes to the curriculum is much easier than a traditional, large public school.

By spring of 2021, the school's leadership agreed to the change. The course handbook for the 2021-2022 school year featured a new, stand-alone personal finance class that was a requirement for graduation. Our school now exceeds the state standard.

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 largest challenge was scheduling - having enough teachers and space to accommodate the students and ensure their credit requirements were satisfied. However, the school instituted a new trimester schedule which allowed for the class to be offered.

What also facilitated the change is that in Delaware personal finance falls under the domain of social studies. As a certified social studies teacher who had experience teaching economics and personal finance lessons, the transition was seamless. Additionally, the large amount of PD training and support from NGPF was very helpful.

What/who were the "catalysts for change" that allowed your efforts to be successful?

NGPF was that "catalyst for change." The group's continued support through PD, engaging activities, and updates on current trends and initiatives helped to keep the idea of financial literacy relevant and timely. NGPF's continued advocacy supports teachers in their goal of giving students skills for life, and for many, the chance at a brighter financial future.

Which stakeholders (students, parents, admin, business leaders, school board, etc) were helpful partners in your quest to make the graduation requirement happen?

The students were the most helpful cohort. Much of the feedback I received from them was positive and supportive of personal finance classes. In addition to the positive impression the students had for the course, an open-minded administration that was willing to make the change was crucial. From the head of school to the business office to the heads of the high school, all the senior school officials saw the value in the change and moved willingly and quickly to support the change.

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