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State requires students to have financial know-how
(February 21, 2012) - This year's high school freshmen will have to meet a new state requirement before they graduate in 2015: Completion of a one-credit course in economics and personal finance. But, while the requirement is new, the subject matter is part of the existing K-12 curriculum in Newport News Public Schools. And, students are already putting financial know-how into practice at a dozen schools that have a banking partnership.
The General Assembly passed the legislation in 2005 and directed the Virginia Board of Education to establish learning objectives for students. Full implementation of the law was delayed until the current academic year. The legislation also requires students to have an academic and career plan, beginning in middle school. School banks and credit unions are encouraged and enabled in the law, too.
NNPS counselors currently are working with seventh-grade students to develop six-year academic plans, according to Claudia Hines, supervisor of school counseling. The Career Pathways program helps students focus on the future, beginning in pre-kindergarten. The goal is that by high school, they not only have a career plan, but workplace experience in the form of job shadowing or a mentorship – and a portfolio.
The school district already offers Economics and Personal Finance, usually taught as a two-semester course. It has been part of the Career and Technical Education curriculum and, while not required for upperclassmen, currently enrolls 144 students across the district. More than 20 NNPS teachers have received training from the Virginia Council on Economic Education so they can teach the class, according to Crystal Taylor, CTE instructional supervisor.
Banking partnerships are old news, too. Students, who serve as tellers, learn about jobs in finance. At some schools, students can earn while they learn by trading incentives given for good behavior for deposits in their accounts. Some students have become teachers, too, sharing their knowledge of banking and budgets with friends and family members.
Richneck, Riverside and Yates Elementary Schools, Hines Middle School and Menchville High School currently have student credit unions run as branches of the Virginia Educators Credit Union. The Hines venture, the first one in a middle school, is tied to an incentive program. Students may redeem 50 "Spartan Stocks," part of the Effective Schoolwide Discipline program, for $5 deposits in their savings accounts.
Sharon Conti, VECU president and CEO, says students benefit in a number of ways from school credit unions. "I think the great thing about the student credit union program at Hines is that it's a real, hands-on learning experience that simulates a career pathway," she says. Conti says overseeing financial transactions empowers students, teaching them teamwork and enhancing their communications skills. And, students learn the importance of savings. "While this is important to start young, it can be an important lesson for adults, too," Conti adds. "This is a student program, but you can use the tools in everyday life, at every stage."
Dutrow Elementary School and Kiln Creek Elementary School have partnerships with Langley Federal Credit Union. Greenwood and Jenkins Elementary Schools have partnerships with 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union.
Magruder Primary School began a partnership with Sun Trust Bank in December, while An Achievable Dream Middle School and High School has a partnership with Towne Bank. Bank personnel provide career and financial literacy sessions, and seniors visit Towne Bank monthly.
An Achievable Dream Academy has a partnership with Bank of America. Checkbooks are issued to each student, according to Principal Catina Bullard-Clark. Merit points are converted to bank balances, and students in grades three through five use their accounts to buy school supplies. They have to balance their checkbooks, just like their parents. Bullard-Clark says some students have inspired family members to open their own accounts.