The Johnston Community School District began a journey to provide its students with quality financial literacy learning.

Financial literacy surfaced as a focus from our community roundtable conversations, as well as the new Social Studies standards. Discussions focused on potential benefits of a full semester course versus an integrated approach across multiple courses. They wanted all students to have a quality experience of depth of content, fidelity of topics, and the opportunity to be taught by teacher experts.

Johnston staff agreed that a deep, authentic course was needed for all of our learners to be successful in understanding financial literacy. The team decided the class would be taken by juniors, and last fall a course on Financial Literacy became a graduation requirement.

The semester-long Financial Literacy course uses Next Gen Personal Finance materials, supplemented with teacher choice materials, all of which are free to access and use.

Students will be expected to learn about financial goal setting, budgeting, banking services, paying for higher education, insurance, investing, credit and debt, and buying a home and car. In learning these topics, students do a variety of activities, ranging from games and simulations to creating videos and other multimedia. The key was ensuring that an otherwise dry topic was presented in a fun, engaging and realistic manner.

A recent survey of the first students who went through the course showed that 99 percent of them said that Financial Literacy will help them in their adult life.

Students also take part in the H & R Block Budget Challenge. It is a 10-week simulation where students receive and pay bills, keep a budget, contribute to their 401k, and manage a credit card. Students enjoy the challenges that come along with managing a realistic budget.

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