Annual Report 2016 | Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
"As we prepare teachers to enter the world of teaching, it’s important that they understand how economics relates to all parts of their lives and how to incorporate economics into all curricula areas."
—Betty Porter Walls | assistant professor in the College of Education at Harris- Stowe State University in St. Louis.
By Erin Yetter, Senior Economic Education Specialist
Although the nine members of the economic education team at the St. Louis Fed have a combined 100-plus years of experience in the field of economic education, we could barely make a dent by ourselves in teaching economic and personal finance literacy to all those who need it. That's why we focus our efforts primarily on teaching the teachers, from those in pre-K to those in the college classroom.
Some may think that the best path to economic literacy is to work directly with students. But let's look at the math behind that. A new wave of students enters school and graduates every year. Direct contact and intervention with students would require using scarce resources to visit the same classroom repeatedly, teaching new students each time.
Instead, with our "teach one, reach many" model, teachers receive high-quality resources and training, both online and in person. These new skills and tools stay with the teachers to be used year after year, with wave after wave of students.
On average, a teacher who attends our programs reaches 75 students in a year.1 If the teacher continues to teach for 10 years, that's 750 students. How does this multiplier effect add up? In 2016, we reached nearly 6,500 teachers, who in turn taught nearly a half-million students.
What do teachers need from us and get from us?
In general, most teachers, even high school social studies teachers, have little to no economics background.2 Generally, they aren't required to take any economics courses. There is an adage in education that you can't teach what you don't know.
In our free professional development programs for educators, we teach economics and personal finance content, and we demonstrate methods educators can use to teach economics and personal finance in the classroom successfully. We also provide, through our teacher portal, online professional development for educators. These programs, too, focus on content and pedagogy.
Focusing on both the "what" (content) and "how" (pedagogy) is equally important. Research abounds showing the positive relationship between teacher content knowledge in economics and student achievement in economics.3 For example, one group of researchers found that students whose teachers participate in economic education professional development programs and who use high-quality materials perform better on tests of economic knowledge—and the more professional development the teacher has, the better the students perform.4 Another study showed that training teachers in the use of a high-quality curriculum resulted in significant improvement in the average personal finance knowledge of students across a broad spectrum of personal finance content.5
A team of evaluators who reviewed the St. Louis Fed's economic education programs found that teachers who attended professional development programs learned the content and used the curriculum materials received.6 And another group of researchers found that "a rigorous state mandate for financial education, if carefully implemented, can improve the credit scores and lower the probability of delinquency for young adults."7 These researchers identified professional development in personal finance for educators as part of what makes a rigorous mandate.
And what do the teachers themselves think about the St. Louis Fed's efforts to get them to weave economics and personal finance into their classes?
Vicki Fuhrhop, a high school business teacher on one of our educator advisory boards, framed her answer around the needs of students. "We don't want them to learn by trial and error. That's too grave of an impact on them. We need to educate them so they don't make mistakes—so they make really good decisions."
As for the resources themselves, Fuhrhop said she appreciated the variety of content and modes of accessing them ("I really like the Econ Ed Mobile app"), as well as the fact that the resources are always being updated—and are free.
Another board member is Patrice Bain. "Being a middle school teacher, if I should Google 'economics', chances are there's not going to be too much for middle school. And, so, to have a site (www.stlouisfed.org/education) where you can just put in 'middle school' and all of these wonderful resources pop up, I'm saving a lot of time."
Bain added, "Something else that I think is so vital to what's being offered is that many of them are research-based. They just align with the latest research and how people learn."
A few resources for teachers:
About the Author
Erin Yetter joined the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in 2012. Earlier, she taught economics at the University of South Florida, the University of Delaware and Hillsborough Community College, in Tampa, Fla. She has written numerous lessons and published research articles on economic and personal finance education. [ back to text ]
|2017||Excellence in Financial Literacy Education (EIFLE) Award for Children's Education Program|
|2016||National Association of Economic Educators (NAEE) Gold Curriculum Award of Excellence|
|2015||Abbejean Kehler Technology Award
EIFLE Award for Econ Lowdown and the Inside the Economy® Museum
|2014||PR Daily's Corporate Social Responsibility Award|
A Look at the U.S. and States in the St. Louis Fed's District
|States that include economics in their K-12 standards (+District of Columbia)||51||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|States that require standards to be implemented (+DC)||45||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|States that require a high school course in economics be offered (+DC)||23||Y||N||Y||N||Y||N||Y|
|States that require a high school course be taken (+DC)||20||Y||N||Y||N||Y||N||Y|
|States with standardized testing of economics (+DC)||16||N||N||Y||Y||Y||N||N|
|States that include personal finance in their K-12 standards (+DC)||45||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|States that require personal finance standards to be implemented (+DC)||37||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|States that require a high school course in personal finance be offered (+DC)||22||Y||N||N||N||Y||Y||Y|
|States that require a high school personal finance course be taken (+DC)||17||Y||N||N||N||N||Y||Y|
|States with standardized testing of personal finance (+DC)||7||N||N||N||N||N||Y||N|
SOURCE: Council for Economic Education, Survey of the States, 2016.
NOTES: The St. Louis Fed is the home of the Eighth Federal Reserve District. The District covers all of Arkansas and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Y=Yes. N=No.