SUMMARY OF GRADE
Significant Accomplishments: Required high school course with some financial literacy instruction; Financial literacy website
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 order to graduate from a California high school, each student must take a one-half credit economics course. California has not adopted its own Financial Literacy standards, however in the Math Framework Appendix A, the California State Board of Education endorses “two sets of national standards that teachers may use to influence their instruction” in financial literacy, the Jump$tart K-12 Personal Finance standards, and the National Standards for Financial Literacy provided by the Council for Economic Education. In Appendix A it is stated that time constraints “often make it impossible to offer a separate course in financial education” but financial literacy can be integrated into other content areas. Mathematics courses are “often considered a natural fit.”
The History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools do not contain any personal finance standards for the economics course. However, the California State Board of Education publishes course frameworks to aid teachers in implementing state standards, and the Principles of Economics: History Social Science Framework lists “What does it mean to be financially literate?” as one of the course’s main topics. This addition of personal finance into the economics curriculum framework came from 2013 Chapter 135 (Assembly Bill No. 166) which amended Education Code so that, for grades seven through twelve, “Currently, but not prior to, the next revision of textbooks or curriculum frameworks in the social sciences, health, and mathematics curricula, the state board shall insure that these academic areas integrate components of… financial literacy, including, but not limited to, budgeting and managing credit, student loans, consumer debt, and identity theft security.” California also recommends that schools offer Financial Literacy as a ninth grade elective. However, this is not required to be offered by schools nor taken by students, and ninth grade is not the most effective grade in high school to receive specific personal finance instruction.
2016 Chapter 616 (Assembly Bill No. 2546) further amended California’s Education Code so that “when the history-social science curriculum framework is revised after January 1, 2017, the Instructional Quality Commission shall consider including… age-appropriate information… on financial literacy… at least twice in each of the following grade spans: kindergarten and grades 1 to 5, inclusive, grades 6 to 8, inclusive, and grades 9 to 12, inclusive.” A bill analysis estimates that this next revision will not take place until 2024. However, as this specifies the curriculum framework, which is merely a guide for local districts, rather than state standards, the inclusion of personal finance is not guaranteeing that all California students will receive personal finance instruction. Furthermore, it is a suggestion rather than a mandate by the state legislature. Currently, personal finance is not covered in History-Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve.
The California Department of Education website provides a robust list of financial literacy resources in its Grades K-12 Financial Literacy Resources.
Because it does not ensure financial literacy in required instruction through most of Grades K-12, California receives a “D” in financial literacy instruction. In order to improve its grade, California should require a stand-alone personal finance class for high school graduation and implement financial literacy standards for each grade, K-8, rather than just a few times throughout, as is currently recommended.