WV schools get B+ for teaching in finance

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WV schools get B+ for teaching in finance
By Fred Pace, Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON - High schools in West Virginia earned a B+ for teaching personal finance, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The grade was in "Is Your State Making the Grade? The 2017 Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools," prepared by Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy.

The 2017 Report Card showed West Virginia joining Georgia, Florida and Illinois in earning a B+. Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia were the only states to earned an A grade, and Utah was the only state to receive an A+.

John Pelletier, director of the Champlain College center, says that states received B-, B or B+ based on whether courses allocated more than, equal to, or less than one quarter of the course to personal finance.

"West Virginia requires students to take a full-year civics course that has personal finance concepts embedded in it, and the center estimates that West Virginia students receive about 27 hours of instruction in personal finance," he said. "Students who take an AP government course are not required to take the civics course, and it is unclear how or whether the state measures student proficiency."

West Virginia Treasurer John Perdue is committed to improving financial literacy in the Mountain State, according to spokesman Greg Stone.

"We have trained teachers all over the state on a variety of financial subjects," Stone said. "Our NetWorth program is very popular with students and teachers and as part of our financial education efforts. It's typically taught at middle schools, but has been taught at high schools as well."

Recently, Man Middle School students in Logan County learned financial literacy in a unique way through the "Get a Life" program.

The game was developed by Fairmont State University for Perdue's NetWorth program.

Stone says the goal of the program is to teach West Virginia students about managing personal finances through a budget simulation.

Students are first given a red card with a job title, family size and monthly income. The red cards only have jobs available in West Virginia without any post-secondary education, such as college or a trade school.

After the students buy a car, house, insurance, groceries, furniture and gas, they trade in their red card for a green one, but not before the Green Reaper stops by. The Green Reaper hands out "accident" cards. Sometimes a student will get a puppy, other times a flat tire, but either way, students are handed an everyday situation that requires them to spend money.

"You usually see the students trying to hide from him," said Brian Kirkendoll, regional marketing manager at West Virginia State Treasury Department. "It's always interesting to watch them work through these situations."

The students are usually in debt when playing with the life given to them by the red cards. The green cards give the students a better job, one only acquired through post-secondary education. When they finish with their green card, they usually have money left over.

By demonstrating money management by allowing the students to see how easy it is to fall into debt without personal finance skills, they are better able to comprehend the importance of post-secondary education.

Members of the community volunteer to run each table, making the experience as accurate a representation of the area the students live in as possible. The program has been presented at other middle and high schools during the 2017-18 school year.

"The treasurer has put a big emphasis on financial education in our schools and has had 60 events in 2017," Stone said. "The goal is providing teachers and students with the materials they need to have more financial education in schools. We hope we have played a role in the good grade West Virginia was given for teaching personal finance in our schools."

For more information, or to schedule a "Get a Life" event, call the Financial Education Programs division at 304-558-5000.