As a generation of young Americans come of age in an era of mounting debt where robust public and private pensions are a distant memory, financial education is more important than ever before.
I founded Working in Support of Education (WISE), a national non-profit, in 1998 specifically to improve lives by developing financial literacy and college and career readiness. In 2003, we launched our flagship Financial Literacy Certification program for high school students in New York City.
This award-winning program provides teachers with a curriculum and instructional resources to teach personal finance and measures students’ knowledge after instruction through the WISE Financial Literacy Certification Test. Students who pass the Test become Certified Financially Literate.
In the 2015-2016 school year, high schools in 46 states participated in the program; nearly 6 million hours of instruction was delivered to students at these schools; and the average passing rate on the certification test was 80%.
“The WISE certification is important because it lets companies know that students have acquired knowledge that is vital to a life of personal financial well-being,” says Judith P. Sams, program specialist at the Virginia Department of Education, a state that requires personal finance instruction in school.
We are extremely proud of our program. It has transformed the national conversation about financial literacy and reached more than one million young people.
On Election Day, WISE hosts the MoneyPOWER Financial Literacy Conference in New York, where we honor exceptional “Blue Star” schools and “Gold Star” teachers. Widely recognized as a premier financial literacy conference for middle and high school teachers of personal finance, this day of professional development builds teachers’ capacity to teach personal finance.
We also hold our annual 100 Best High Schools Teaching Personal Finance Voya Financial Ceremony in lower Manhattan at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
First published in 2013, the 100 Best WISE High Schools national ranking recognizes top performing high schools, showcases excellence in financial education, and motivates schools to race to the top in personal finance instruction.
“The WISE Financial Literacy Certification program helped me learn and grow,” says Keeshawn Duncan, a student from Cardinal Spellman High School in New York City. “I can now talk with my parents and other adults about money in an educated way and also help my fellow classmates.”
I have repeatedly seen firsthand how personal finance education positively affects the lives of students and their families. The work we do is building a stronger America.
Phyllis F. Perillo is founder, president and CEO of WISE.
(Right About Money welcomes guest posts from financial education thought leaders, subject to editing for clarity and style.)