MCPS revamps personal finance course offerings

In October 2021, a former Student Member of the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) Board of Education (BOE), Hana O’Looney, proposed a semester-long personal finance course to show the ropes of rudimentary adult finances. In this 0.5-credit course, students learn critical financial planning skills such as managing a credit score, filing taxes, and building a retirement fund. As of the start of the 2022-23 school year, the course is available at all 26 MCPS high schools. O’Looney further advocated for the personal finance elective to become a graduation requirement to ensure that all students receive critical financial literacy education. Though this resolution did not pass, the BOE is re-evaluating its feasibility in Spring 2023 after evaluating the performance of the pilot course in its first year. 

The Maryland Board of Education established a financial literacy framework for all elementary, middle, and high schools to offer personal finance education in collaboration with local school systems in September 2011. MCPS embeds financial literacy education at three key checkpoints in its K-12 core curriculum. In 5th, 7th, and 12th grade, students are evaluated for their financial literacy knowledge per the Maryland state guidelines. 

According to a survey conducted in 2015 by the Maryland State Department of Education, only 50% of MD high school seniors recall receiving personal finance instruction in school. MCPS has addressed this lack of retention by remodeling a popular math course, quantitative literacy, to have more concrete applications to personal finance.

“Quantitative Literacy is lacking in connection with personal finance standards,” noted MCPS K-12 Social Studies Specialist Mrs. Kelli Champagne. “Financial Math is a year-long math class with personal finance steeped in to help students navigate real-life planning scenarios.” 

The course was developed in collaboration with NextGen Finance using their existing quantitative literacy course and adapting to its current personal finance programming. 

Poolesville High School’s personal finance teacher, Mr. Edward Morrell, reported substantial interest in the course with three sections or approximately 100 upperclassmen students enrolled in the personal finance social studies elective. He is a staunch advocate for the personal finance course and was involved in early working groups in the developmental stages of the elective in 2020. 

“It’s like the greatest class in the world,” he remarked. “Personal finance gives students a practical approach to manage their resources for the rest of their lives.” 

Should the personal graduation requirement pass, it will affect the MCPS graduating class of 2028. Students can fulfill this potential requirement through the personal finance elective or full-year financial math course beginning in Fall 2023.