By Emily Kittle
A growing number of high school students lack an understanding of basic money matters. But at least one area high school is brainstorming new ways to teach teens the ABCs of personal finance.
Teachers at Cedar Rapids' Thomas Jefferson High School recently wrote curriculum for a pilot course--Financial Literacy--which will be offered during the 2011-2012 school year. The year-long interactive course will address checking accounts, investments, credit scores, insurance, real estate and more.
Jim Womochil, a business teacher at Jefferson High School, says students need more guidance if they're going to become financially literate, an important life skill.
"In talking to banks and credit unions around town, they are really frustrated with young people not managing their checking accounts," Womochil said. "And young people are getting into trouble at a very, very early age, which harms their credit."
A 2008 survey by the Jump$tart Coalition found that the financial literacy of high school students has fallen to its lowest level. Participants answered 48.3 percent of the questions correctly.
"There are still many important concepts that are not getting through to the next generation," the coalition said of its findings.
Jefferson High School's pilot course draws on topics covered in three existing electives--Personal Finance, Money Management and Entrepreneurship. For now, the new class also will be an elective. But that could soon change.
By July 1, 2012, high school teachers will be required to teach students financial literacy as part of the Iowa Core Curriculum signed into law in May 2008 (Des Moines Register). And similar bills are being introduced in Congress.
"We thought we'd get a head start by writing this course," Womochil said. "High school curriculums are going this way. All high schools are going to have to supply some type of financial literacy for kids."