School Zone: How financial literacy is making its way into DC area school curricula

In this week’s edition of School Zone, WTOP takes a closer look at the state of financial literacy course requirements in DC area school systems.

Welcome to the School Zone, WTOP’s weekly feature on the latest education topics and trends in the DC region.

Which DC area school systems have financial literacy graduation requirements?

What it is?: Recent graduates may feel like they’ve mastered many topics, but may struggle with common financial needs, such as managing a budget or understanding what a 401(k) is.

School officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, said this week they would not introduce a financial literacy course requirement for students at this time – but decided to explore options. ways to make financial concepts accessible to students.

Twelve states, including Virginia, require high school students to take a financial literacy course before graduation. In Virginia, the 9th grade class in 2011 became the first to take a one-credit economics and personal finance course, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

In Maryland, some school systems have introduced a financial literacy graduation requirement, but the state does not include it as a graduation requirement. Bills to make a finance course mandatory failed in the Maryland General Assembly.

The state Department of Education has stated that as of September 2011 finance concepts must be included in grades 3-12 curricula, but a stand-alone finance course is not necessary.

In DC, a school system spokesperson told me that financial literacy was not a requirement. Seven schools currently offer financial literacy courses and 10 municipal schools offer an algebra course that includes similar concepts.

What this means: Proponents of implementing a requirement say the course better prepares students for life after high school.

In some cases, students learn how to manage a budget, organize a stock portfolio, and research salaries for the careers they want.

In Montgomery County, members of the Board of Education have expressed concerns about the impact a requirement could have on teaching assignments, among other things.

Regional overview: All high schools in Virginia have this requirement, and Prince George’s County in Maryland will introduce the requirement next year. Charles and Frederick counties in Maryland are among the school systems in Maryland that require financial literacy courses.

Talking points: Kaelyn Stieg, a business professor in Frederick County, Maryland, says the school system offers several finance courses. She told me the goal is to equip students with the skills they will need as young adults.

Stieg students participate in a stock market game, in which they must track progress over time. There is also a budget challenge, which involves students making decisions about a budget with fictional life events influencing those choices.

A student entrepreneurship competition, similar to Shark Tank, is also popular among students.

The county is working to incorporate lessons on cybercurrencies like bitcoin as they become increasingly popular, Stieg says.

In an end-of-year survey, Stieg asks students if they feel like they learned any skills they will use in the future.

“It’s unanimously yes, they feel like they understand the basic concepts or terminology better to start with,” she told me.

Jared Van Acker had a similar experience teaching personal finance at WT Woodson High School in Fairfax County, Virginia.

In the economics portion of his courses, students learn about supply and demand, taxes, and insurance. Students also learn about retirement, stocks, and IRAs.

Van Acker says a career budget project done near the end of the first semester gets students excited — students pick a career, research the salary, tally up taxes and savings, then come up with a monthly budget.

Van Acker students also research entrepreneurs to find out how they got started.

“I can literally tell my kids today in my classroom that what I teach them is going to impact them, if it hasn’t already, for the rest of their lives,” he told me. said. “And that’s why I think it’s one of the most important lessons a kid can take.”

Scott’s take: Two years of AP Calculus hasn’t really helped with basic financial skills, like understanding how the stock market works or how to balance a checkbook.

Prince George executive calls for school board chair to resign

Earlier this week, Prince George’s County, Maryland superintendent Angela Alsobrooks repeated her calls for the resignation of school board president Juanita Miller.

I spoke to John Domen of WTOP for the last one.

Q: What is the origin of the conflict that is taking place within the school board?

A: Basically, these are personality conflicts. But the council has been embroiled in conflict seemingly forever. This happened when the board was full of appointed members. It happened when he was elected by all. And that was a concern when they changed the law a few years ago to make it a hybrid council with some elected and some appointed. It’s never just one problem. It’s just one thing after another. Names and faces change, issues change, but the same issues plague the council.

Q: What did Alsobrooks say this week about Miller’s role on the board?

A: She reiterated that Miller should resign. But she also made it clear that you can’t blame her for all the issues currently plaguing the board. I specifically asked if you could measure it – how much did she contribute to the problem – and Alsobrooks said no, you really can’t.

But between the ongoing drama, the state board investigation, and the board’s composition changing again, it all suggested to Alsobrooks that it was time to move on.

In December, the board will start choosing its own chair, and it would be really, really, really hard to imagine him continuing in that role. Would she stay on as a board member? No one seems to think so.

Then, in 2024, the council becomes a fully elected council again. So with his time running out and all that other drama, Alsobrooks just publicly said it was about time. I asked Miller about this and his response was “no comment”.

Q: Where do we go from here? What did Miller say about his resignation?

A: Last week, she circumvented Alsobrooks’ request and just asked for the process to go through in a video response. She can do that. She also replied “no comment” when I asked her about Alsobrooks repeating that call on Tuesday.

Now she can’t be fired by anyone in the county. But the Council of State can dismiss her. So we’ll see.

[Read John’s full story on the state of the Prince George’s county school board on]

By the numbers
Some of the data that caught my eye this week.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser this week urged parents to tell their students about all vaccines before the start of the next school year.

Thomas Farley of DC Health says 80% of kindergarteners in DC are up to date on routine injections.

Bowser urged families not to wait to find out about vaccines.

[Read more about the city’s plans to boost vaccination rates on]

What Scott Reads

  • Montgomery Co. Schools Says Additional Safety Training Underway After Magruder HS Shooting Report [WTOP]
  • Mental health services, salary increase for long-serving teachers funded by Fairfax Co. [WTOP]
  • ‘Don’t give up’: Senator Kaine talks to Arlington high schoolers about gun control [WTOP]
  • Virginia elementary school gets ukuleles for music therapy program [NBC4]
  • “When it’s a shooting in a city street, nothing happens” [Washington Post]
  • Parent leaders seek more information in response to Magruder High shooting report [Bethesda Beat]
  • Uvalde had prepared for the school shootings. That didn’t stop the rampage. [New York Times]

Also this week, DMV Download spoke to DC Police Chief Robert Contee about the role of police in schools. Listen below.


Here’s a fun thought before the weekend.

Softball and party: The weekend will kick off on the softball field, for some of the final DC Media Softball League games. We’ll also be celebrating friends’ engagements on a rooftop – we might have to bring some new Limoncello Gouda cheese from Trader Joe’s.

To stay in contact: Do you have a school story idea that we should know about? Send it to [email protected]