NGPF Turns 5! Thanks to the amazing educator community!
Five years ago, Jessica and I opened the doors at NGPF with a mission to revolutionize the teaching of personal finance in all schools and to improve the financial lives of the next generation of Americans. Ok, not really. It actually started with more modest ambitions. Think experiment. We would build some curriculum to engage a community of educators so we could learn more about what they need, then make more curriculum, engage more teachers, rinse and repeat. We knew the field was crowded. Yet we also knew that educators spent hours googling for resources. Maybe we could make their lives easier by both curating resources from the web while also creating some ourselves.
We started by finding the “best of the best” resources that already existed on the internet. The benefits of using this strategy were two-fold: Why recreate the wheel, generating our own content explaining homeowners insurance or how credit card payments work, when there are great resources already written? And we believe students benefit immensely from exposure to different writing styles, formatting choices, data sources, and interactive opportunities. Accessing and understanding source documents is a lifelong skill, and our curriculum brings those opportunities lesson after lesson. And then we began creating our own Activities, Projects, Questions of the Day, … the list goes on. What’s our secret there? It’s best described as “experienced classroom educators who happen to be outstanding curriculum developers who continue to improve their craft, month after month.”
Once we had a comprehensive set of curriculum resources, we tackled a second pain point for teachers: professional development. We created a one-day PD called FinCamp in March of 2017 and when teacher demand exploded we met it by serving teachers in 49 states over the next two years. We look forward to seeing New Hampshire teachers next month.
We continue to innovate to develop scalable PD solutions and are excited about our new Virtual PD and Virtual FinCamp models. We now have the potential to reach ALL teachers in an effective and efficient manner. We now have a solution to reach educators in rural areas who often lack access to quality PD.
Here's a brief snapshot of where we stand today:
- Almost 50% of students attend a high school where a teacher uses NGPF curriculum
- With 18,000 teachers on our platform (growing at 1,000 teachers a month), our reach extends to almost 2 million students.
- Over 40% of new teachers come via word-of-mouth which is the best advertising for a young company (it's FREE!). Thank you referrers!
- Reached over 3,100 teachers from 49 states at 101 FinCamps
- Created a FinLit Fanatics group that now has over 2,000 teachers collaborating daily to share best practices and activity ideas while building a sense of community
- Activity on our website, users and pageviews, has doubled each of the past three years as teachers have found that "one stop shop" to replace those late-night googling sessions
So what do the next five years look like for NGPF?
We recognize that this foundation we have built together will mean little unless we can expand beyond the 1 in 6 students who currently take a personal finance course before they graduate. The team at NGPF (Abby, Christian, Greg, Jessica, Laura, Rita, Sonia, Tim, & Yanely and our long-term interns Ren and Sid ) will not settle until ALL kids receive the financial education they deserve. We also know from our travels across the country that there are tens of thousands of educators who feel the same way.
We know institutional and social change is hard work. Yet, we are ready to do that hard work because the financial health of the next generation is worth fighting for.
So, what will be focusing on over the next five years? It has to start with curriculum.
While we haven’t mapped all of curriculum for the next half decade, we can say we’ll continue to push the envelope on what it means to engage students, whether through online games and interactives or the complete opposite -- no-tech activities that get students up, out of their seats, and moving around. We’re modifying existing resources to make them more modular, so they’ll more easily plug into our existing curricula. And we’re generating content for specific target audiences you’ve asked about -- non-college bound students, English language learners, younger audiences, and students from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds.
But getting the curriculum and PD pieces right is not enough. Why not? The fact is that today 5 out of 6 students are learning these financial lessons not in high school but rather in the school of hard knock which can be expensive (and very profitable for the financial services industry). Scan the statistics on overdraft fees, student debt levels and payday loan usage and the impacts of this lack of financial education is clear.
So, what’s the solution to serving the forgotten 5/6ths? Teachers! Provide them with engaging and easy to implement curriculum, build their confidence and competence through best-in-class PD and good things happen. An elective with one section becomes two sections the next year and four the year after. Suddenly conversations about ALL students taking personal finance begin.
Having traveled throughout the country over the past few years delivering FinCamps and attending conferences, we see the passion and determination of these changemakers. We know that harnessing their energies will be critical to accomplishing Mission: 2030 together: 100% of U.S. high schoolers will successfully complete at least one semester of personal finance instruction before graduation by 2030.
One final thought: With the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 upon us this year, my brother sent me a copy of a book by that name. It’s a great read about what a nation committed to one “moonshot” of a goal can accomplish despite tremendous technological and organizational hurdles. Eight years elapsed from President Kennedy’s challenge for a moonwalk to Neil Armstrong setting foot on Tranquility Base.
Let’s face it, the challenge of ensuring that every student receives a basic financial education while in high school is NOT rocket science. Quality free curricular resources are widely available and there are proven teacher-centric professional development models (e.g. FinCamps) that build teacher capability. We see no lack of will in the thousands of educators we have met over the next five years and look forward to galvanizing their efforts in the years ahead.
They, like us, share this belief espoused by Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
If you enjoyed the first five years of NGPF's existence, the fun is just beginning. We look forward to continuing to serve you!
About the Authors
Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.
When I started working at Next Gen Personal Finance, it's as though my undergraduate degree in finance, followed by ten years as an educator in an NYC public high school, suddenly all made sense.
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