Under-qualified Financial Educators Pose Risk

Under-qualified or poorly-performing financial educators may bring future economic disaster. The effects of poor teaching can continue to affect students’ lives for many years after instruction ends.

[8] [5] Worse, failure seemingly breeds more failure. According to the Dallas studies cited above, not only do under-qualified teachers reduce overall student achievement levels, but sub-par teachers also tend to be paired with already under-performing or at-risk students—thus exacerbating the risk of future economic problems resulting from financial illiteracy.

Unfortunately, many financial literacy instructors today lack solid educator credentials and/or knowledge about personal finance topics. Beyond academic qualifications, studies also show that an educator’s passion, enthusiasm, and commitment play critical roles in successful student development, and a correlation certainly exists between an educator’s level of personal commitment and students’ financial futures.[9] [10] [11]

Effective educators help learners achieve better outcomes. Numerous studies have shown that students of highly-qualified educators accomplish more positive outcomes than those taught by less-qualified instructors. For example, students of qualified educators may expect higher lifetime earnings and greater security at retirement [1] as well as improved mental and physical health and well-being. [2]

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Unique Subject

Financial education is a unique subject that requires specialized expertise to teach effectively. The quality of financial education instructors directly influences both short-term student outcomes and long-term impact on their financial wellbeing.

Unlike other core subject matter typically taught in schools, the topic of money elicits emotional reactions in people—ranging from excitement to anxiety to shame. Each participant in a financial literacy course brings his or her own experience, emotions, and relationship with money into the classroom. Educators must understand and respect these emotional reactions to succeed in establishing financial literacy among participants.

Emotional attachment and pre-existing relationships with money also put participants at greater risk. The NFEC uses the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change to measure a person’s willingness to change his or her financial behaviors. When participants are taught by an untrained educator, their risk of regressing to lower stages in the model is greatly increased. Thus they are likely to become more resistant to changing their financial acumen and habits.

To facilitate lasting behavior modification, educators must help students achieve a deeper level of understanding about financial literacy lessons compared to other core subject requirements. The NFEC advocates that instructors use Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher-order Thinking Skills or the Depth of Knowledge Levels as a framework for teaching personal finance. Given adequate instruction time, a highly-qualified financial education instructor drives participants to synthesize the lessons and make decisions in alignment with their individual financial situations. Few other topics taught in schools demand such depth of understanding; for most subjects students simply need to recall information to pass testing requirements.

Qualified financial education instructors understand that “one-size-fits-all” pedagogy does not work. The NFEC believes that financial education instructors are not simply dispensers of knowledge; they are learning facilitators who can mold or modify participants’ behavior to help them achieve financial wellness.

[1] Annamaria Lusardi and Olivia S. Mitchell, NBER Working Paper No. 17078 (May 2011), Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth.

[2] Bennett et al., BMC Geriatrics, 12:30 (2012), Correlates of health and financial literacy in older adults without dementia.

[3] Max Nisen, Business Insider (Sep. 16, 2013), Impact of Teachers on Lifetime Earnings.

[4] Pamela D. Tucker and James H. Stronge, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (2005), Linking Teacher Evaluation and Student Learning.

[5] William J. Webster and Robert L. Mendro, Dallas Public Schools (1997), The Dallas Value-Added Accountability System Report.

[6] W. L. Sanders, S. P. Wright and S. P. Horn, Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, Vol. 11 (1997), Teacher and classroom context effects on student achievement: Implications for teacher evaluation.

[7] R. J. Marzano, D. J. Pickering and J. E. Pollock, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA (2001), Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement

[8] W. L. Sanders, Financial Literacy and Education Committee (2006), Taking Ownership of the Future.

[9] Ben Johnson, Principal, blog article (undated), Student Commitment Depends on Teacher Commitment.

[10] Randal C. Archibold, New York Times article (November 18, 1999), Students’ Success Depends on Teachers Most, Poll Says.

[11] Kenneth Leithwood, Karen Seashore Louis, Stephen Anderson and Kyla Wahlstrom, Wallace Foundation, Review of Research (undated), How leadership influences student learning.

[12] Corinne Baron-Donovan, Richard L. Wiener, Karen Gross and Susan Block-Lieb, Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (2005), Financial Literacy Teacher Training: A Multiple-Measure Evaluation.

[13] Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Visa Inc. Financial Literacy and Education Summit, Chicago, IL (April 17, 2013), from prepared remarks.

[14] Harrison Jacobs, Business Insider article (October 11, 2013), Here’s How to Raise Teachers’ Salaries without Spending a Dime.

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