NJ District Implements Online Course to Meet Financial Literacy Mandate

When the New Jersey Department of Education mandated that all high school students—beginning with the 2014 graduating class—take at least 2.5 credits in financial literacy, administrators at North Plainfield School District’s high school looked for an innovative solution to provide a course that met the state requirement.

The district selected the comprehensive Personal Finance course from the Aventa Learning® by K12® curriculum, because it met the state requirement to provide students with a course that incorporates “financial, economics, business, and entrepreneurial literacy,” in addition to introducing more students to online learning.

The Aventa course offers students access to a certified K12 teacher trained in online instruction for support, and provides students an understanding of financial concepts. From credit to insurance to taxes, the course demonstrates practical applications through activities and projects that equip students with useful life skills to manage money. The course covers the basic personal financial needs of young people, focusing on budgets, savings, checking accounts, investments and credit, insurance, and income tax returns.

This past school year about 150 North Plainfield High School students studied personal finance online. They took the course in the school lab before or after school, or during any free time during the day between 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. A staff person was available in the lab to assist students, or they could call a K12 teacher for guidance and support.

Because the district had previous experience and success with online learning—utilizing the Aventa curriculum for its credit recovery and world language programs—administrators believed satisfying the state mandate through an online course would be good for students for multiple reasons.

“Our superintendent believes that our high school students should be exposed to online courses as a graduation requirement because more and more colleges and universities offer online learning,” said John Tarnofsky, assistant principal of North Plainfield School District’s Alternative High School Program. “K12’s Aventa online personal finance course works very well, because it is a rigorous semester course that students take online and on their own free time. It gives students the experience of working independently.”

A growing number of states are requiring students to take a financial education course to address the lack of a fundamental grasp of money management and basic economics by high school students. According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Council for Economic Education (CEE), 22 states require high school students to take an economics course, and 13 states (an increase from seven in 2007) require students to take a course in personal finance (or study the subject as part of an economics course) as a graduation requirement.

Although New Jersey school districts can offer the required financial literacy course beginning in the freshman year, North Plainfield decided to offer the course only to juniors and seniors.

“We thought the Aventa Personal Finance course would be more practical for juniors and seniors because that’s the time when they start having jobs, getting credit cards, and financing cars, so we believed the course would be more interesting to them,” explained Tarnofsky. “Students told us that they had success taking the course and think that it will help them in the future.” On average, students performed well in the course, averaging 80 percent and above for their final course grade.

Tarnofsky noted that the course is not easy and requires a lot of reading. “Some students think an online course is easy – like a game – but it isn’t. In fact, we started the Aventa course with 170 students, but we had to drop about 20 students who could not handle it independently. But if the students put the time in and did the work, which requires about 40 to 50 assignments, they don’t have a problem.”

In addition to the Personal Finance course, the district relies on the Aventa curriculum for its Alternative High School, summer school credit recovery program, and to supplement its world languages curriculum.