My first national conference on financial education was the Jump$tart National Educator Conference in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2010. It made a deep impression. Sure, the food and accommodations were great. But I’ve never lost the image of all those experts and passionate educators in one place—and the booths with free resources for personal finance teachers like me.
This robust annual gathering, where Right About Money Founder Dan Kadlec delivered the keynote in Dallas last year, remains the only national conference devoted entirely to personal finance education in schools. I recommend teachers that are serious about this calling try to get there at least once.
Fast forward to today. I volunteer as the president of Ohio Jump$tart, a state affiliate of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. Laura Levine serves as the President and CEO. I asked her what makes Jump$tart different.
“Collaboration,” she said. “As a coalition, we’re really not one organization, but many. Nearly 150 national partners and 51 state affiliates. Everything we do—our Clearinghouse, our conference, our communications, and our public awareness initiatives—is designed to promote the accomplishments and resources of our partners and affiliates. I like to say financial literacy is what we do; collaboration is how we do it.”
If any one tool speaks to the organization’s collaborative spirit, it’s the Jump$tart Clearinghouse. This online library of financial education resources is ideal for teachers, parents, caregivers, and anyone committed to financial smarts for students. Finding the right resource is as easy tapping a few keystrokes to enter things like grade level and subject matter. Many resources are free but others may cost up to several hundred dollars a year.
Last summer, Ohio Jump$tart hosted a three-day teacher-training event using Jump$tart Financial Foundation Models. Teachers increased and retained their knowledge, made positive changes in their personal financial behaviors, and integrated what they had learned into their teaching, researchers found. The training came at no cost to teachers. I asked Levine what prompted the development of the training materials.
“Financial Foundations for Educators was an idea from Ted Beck (CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education and former Jump$tart chairman),” she said. “It sprang from University of Wisconsin-Madison research that showed most teachers thought students should take a course in personal finance but only a small percentage felt competent in the subject matter.
“We knew a lot of our partners were already providing training on how to teach personal finance and how to use the variety of resources available. What Ted felt was missing—and Jump$tart agreed—was substantive education to ensure that teachers felt confident about their own level of financial literacy.”
Personal finance education is not emphasized in most programs that lead to an education degree. With so few teachers prepared to teach personal finance, and many parents and students begging for it, Jump$tart has positioned itself to help fill the teacher preparation gap. To learn more about Jump$tart visit their website or follow them @NatlJump$tart.
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