SUMMARY OF GRADE
Significant Accomplishments: K-12 math and social studies financial literacy standards; Financial literacy resource bank and newsletter
Needs Improvement: Needs to require a high school stand-alone personal finance course
AN IN-DEPTH LOOK
Colorado offers a menu of options for local school boards to choose from to constitute graduation requirements. The only required course for high school graduation is Civics/Government, meaning there is no state-wide required financial literacy course or course embedded with personal finance components. However, Colorado’s Education Statute states that “Each school district board of education is strongly encouraged to adopt as part of its district curriculum courses pertaining to financial literacy to be taught in grade-appropriate courses at the elementary, middle, junior high, and high school grade levels… Each school district board of education is further encouraged to adopt successful completion of a course in financial literacy as a graduation requirement.”
2008 House Bill 08-1168 mandated that “in the process of revising and adopting the state content standards… the board shall adopt standards for financial literacy.” The Colorado Academic Standards subsequently published the Personal Financial Literacy Expectations: Addendum to Social Studies and Mathematics Standards Document in December 2009. These additional standards implement financial literacy instruction in both mathematics and social studies in kindergarten through high school. The four main areas of the additional standards are “Goal Setting, Financial Responsibility and Careers; Planning, Income, Saving and Investing; Using Credit; Risk Management and Insurance.” A 2021 bill “adds assessing the affordability of higher education and how to budget and pay for higher education, as well as how to manage student loan debt, to the suggested financial literacy curriculum, as well as familiarizing students with the process and required forms to apply for financial aid, grants, and scholarships, including the FAFSA and CASFA” as well as other additional standards and recommendations. These financial literacy standards ensure students are exposed to financial literacy through their entire Colorado school careers.
2008 House Bill 08-1168 also required students to be assessed state-wide in financial literacy, prior to 2015. “The board shall identify the financial literacy standards that are appropriately assessed within a mathematics assessment and shall ensure that the identified standards are assessed within the mathematics assessments administered as part of the systems of assessments.” However, 2015 House Bill 15-1323 removed the statewide requirement for the mathematics assessment, in which financial literacy was assessed. The state board maintains a resource bank of materials pertaining to financial literacy which is currently available on the Colorado Department of Education’s website and includes personal financial literacy standards and resources with links to and information on state and national financial literacy programs and resources as well as a monthly newsletter.
Colorado receives a “B” in financial literacy instruction, as it ensures financial literacy instruction in kindergarten through grade 12 through financial literacy standards in math and social studies, but not through a high school stand-alone personal finance course. By encouraging rather than requiring a standalone personal finance course for high school graduation, Colorado fails to raise its grade to an “A.”