With more states passing legislation to make Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) a required class for high school graduation, there is a rapidly growing need for high-quality professional development and curriculum support in this subject. There are now 23 states have passed such legislation, with mandatory PFL classes that are either currently required or will be phased in soon. While some states now requiring PFL classes previously offered them as electives, many new teachers across the country will be tackling new PFL classes this fall. Some will be veteran Economics or Financial Math teachers, but some may be brand new to high school teaching entirely.
Fortunately, one good resource for new PFL and Economics teachers is the Council for Economic Education, which has unveiled its annual educator conference to be held late next month in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Attendees can access 45 different sessions and participate in hands-on workshops. For those PFL teachers who can’t make it to Florida on short notice, there is the Jump$tart National Educator Conference (NEC) in early November in Chandler, Arizona. Teachers who cannot travel may be able to utilize Stanford University’s online Teaching Personal Finance Conferences in early October. If a PFL teacher is not limited to a teacher-related conference, there are many personal finance and investing conferences available to visit in 2023-24.
Society Needs New PFL Teachers to be Dedicated
Although many school districts may view in-person professional development as pricey, it is important to invest resources in ensuring that new PFL teachers are dedicated, motivated, and well-supplied with content and curriculum. As a required course for graduation, Personal Financial Literacy should be treated with the same weight as Economics, Government, and English courses. Schools should put effort into finding strong candidates to teach PFL classes and invest in those teachers.
If new PFL teachers, especially rookie teachers, are simply given an online framework and told to figure it out as they go, students are likely to get low-quality instruction and potentially make serious financial mistakes in their twenties. In-person conferences can energize and motivate new PFL teachers to approach the new course seriously. Research has shown many benefits to having teachers attend in-person professional development conferences, including boosting innovation by getting teachers to think outside the norms of their own campuses.
Professional Development Can Help Share Best Practices
An invaluable tool at in-person conferences is meeting experienced teachers of the subject. Any Economics or Personal Finance education conference is going to have some seasoned veterans who know what engages students and what does not. There is plenty of great online education material for Personal Financial Literacy, but a veteran teacher knows how feasible specific activities are and how well they engage students. Online repositories of lessons and videos are excellent to have, but there is no substitute for an experienced guide who has taught the class before.
As more states undoubtedly join the 23 that currently mandate a PFL class for high school graduation, more rookie teachers will be introduced to teaching the subject. We need to make sure that they have mentors to whom they can turn. When a teacher is confident and well-prepared, students sense it and are more likely to engage willingly in the learning. A teacher who gripes about being underprepared is likely to lose students’ attention, which hurts both the school and the students!