By Dan Kadlec
As educators and policymakers debate the best way to teach personal finance lessons in the classroom, they may want to focus on the teachers themselves—not the students. Turns out, high school students who are required to take a personal finance class led by an instructor with formal training end up with vastly improved money skills.
That’s the finding of a new studyfrom the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy. Researchers found that high school students taught by trained teachers acquired money skills that not only exceeded those of their teenage peers, but also beat those of a typical Millennial and were nearly on par with a typical member of Gen X. In short, the teens matched or beat older generations who presumably have picked up more wisdom through life experience.
What makes these findings so intriguing is the focus on teacher instruction. Truth is, most teachers have little financial knowledge, much less training in teaching the subject. As a landmark study out of the University of Wisconsin in 2009 found, fewer than one in five K-12 teachers felt qualified to head a personal finance course. Only 37% had even taken such a class in college, let alone studied to be an instructor.
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