SUMMARY OF GRADE
Significant Accomplishments: Required one-half credit of Economics and Personal Finance for high school graduation; High school financial literacy instruction requirement; Financial literacy website; AR Finance AR Future
Needs Improvement: Needs to require high school stand-alone personal finance course and implement grade-specific K-8 financial literacy standards
AN IN-DEPTH LOOK
In the last several years Arkansas has made a concerted effort to increase financial literacy instruction for all of its students. Beginning with the graduating class of 2021, in order to graduate from high school, Arkansas students must have completed a one-half credit in Economics and Personal Finance as well as “earn a credit in a course that includes personal and family finance in grade 9-12.” 2017 Act 480 (House Bill 1442) mandates that “The Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Career Education and subject to the approval of the State Board of Education, shall develop personal and family finance standards” and that “each public high school student shall be required before graduation to earn a credit in a course take in grade ten, grade eleven, or grade twelve that includes the personal and family finance standards.” Previously, 2004 Arkansas Act 42 (Senate Bill 41) had amended the state code to add a “Personal Finance” section in which “the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Workforce Education, subject to the approval of the state board, shall develop personal finance course content guidelines and recommend textbooks to be used in a personal finance course.”
The Arkansas Department of Education and Arkansas Career Education have embedded the high school personal finance standards into multiple existing courses so that students may meet their personal finance instruction requirement through the completion of any of those courses. These courses are Financial Literacy (.5 Career Focus credit), Quantitative Literacy (1 math credit), ADE Approved AP Macro Economics and Personal Finance (.5 economics credit), ADE Approved AP Micro Economics and Personal Finance (.5 economics credit), Economics (.5 social studies or Career Focus credit), and Financial Planning and Wealth Management (1 Career Focus credit and .5 economics credit). A district may request the Office of Curriculum Support Services to embed the personal finance standards in a different course other than the approved courses. The Economics: Social Studies Curriculum Framework for the required Economics course includes specific personal financial management standards as well as embeds personal finance into multiple economics standards. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has also developed The Tools for Teaching the Arkansas Economics and Personal Finance Course which is a curriculum guide for the Arkansas required economics/personal finance course, aligned to national and Arkansas standards.
Despite recent efforts to increase financial literacy in its high school students, Arkansas fails to begin personal finance instruction before high school. Arkansas’s K-4 and 5-6 Social Studies standards have specific economics sections but do not cover any personal finance components.
The Arkansas Department of Education website lists multiple websites as well as YouTube channels and teacher resources on the Personal Finance Standards webpage. In 2015, Arkansas Treasurer Milligan started the AR Finance AR Future pilot program in financial education. In 2021, Senate Bill 599 established the Arkansas Financial Education Commission, which will “(1) provide financial literacy education programs to all 32 geographic areas and socioeconomic backgrounds; and (2) promote the importance of saving for education.”
Although Arkansas has recently added a requirement for a high school personal finance course, it is part of an economics course and is only one-half credit. Because of its incomplete high school financial literacy instruction and its lack of any financial literacy instruction in Grades K-8, Arkansas receives a “D.” Arkansas should increase the required high school course to a stand-alone, one credit course and develop K-8 financial literacy standards in order to raise its grade to an “A.”