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Nice job on the financial literacy article, Jason. I especially like state breakdowns and maps. Very telling.

I think it's so cool you got to interview Arne Duncan. As a long time person in the field of education, I wanted to throw out some "big picture" issues that you may or may not be aware of.

This is the era of accountability, which means a huge emphasis on testing. In our state, less than half of the school districts met the federal standard last year, which could lead to sanctions down the road. Some of this is due to changing the state test. Even so, it's nuts when our very affluent school district did not meet state standards. They should look at our SAT and Advanced Placement scores, etc. because they are quite high and much more telling of actual academic success. Nuts I tell you. The problem is that legislators and administrators spend so much time worrying about state and federal accountability ratings now days that they have little time to think about extremely important things like financial education. Testing in our state is out of control and now a federal test is being developed as well. While more rigorous standards have been put in place, education funding keeps getting cut little by little. Ironic if you ask me. I hope your message can get beyond the noise of the accountability era where statewide tests and federal requirements have too much weight. The No Child Behind Act is good so that low performing kids aren't forgotten, but it punishes the others and keeps school districts from being able to focus on other life skills such as financial literacy (and for some students learning a career/technology skill since they likely will not go to college).

Stepping off my soapbox but sometimes I don't think people outside of education understand that all of the federal and state accountability pressure has public schools off balance right now. Big time. Getting worse with every year. My $.02.

Your article is on the mark on the need, and I couldn't agree more. I just wanted you to be aware of the "noise" because the pressure is often hidden to all but the educators. Also, with the rise in kids failing state exams, there is a rise in kids unable to get a diploma....which is a whole other financial disaster in the works if you ask me. I guess it's possible that many of these kids would have dropped out years ago though....when it was legal. Who knows?!

More than anyone ever wanted to know.

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By the way, our school district did quite well overall on the state test...but not for two or three of the subgroup breakdowns (can't remember exacts). No Child Left Behind requires school districts to meet specific standards in various subgroups (race, economically disadvantaged status, limited English proficient status, special ed). In the past, many English language learners and special education students were exempt. Now, they are not....and this why many school districts did not meet the standard. Our state developed a rigorous test; other states have not. (I was amazed to see traditionally high performing districts in our area on the "did not meet adequate yearly progress" list because I truly believe some of this is flawed. I'm not against having accountability.)

I sometimes think districts like ours would be open to including financial literacy into existing courses if there was a good curriculum already developed and easy to use....but if they had to come up with it, I doubt it would happen because of the high pressure federal and state requirements. Even so, it would need to be aligned with the state standards.

One idea, Jason, since you have been able to meet Arne Duncan: There is a federal initiative for "state common standards" and maybe there would be a way align financial literacy with the math and/or social studies standards. I have not stopped long enough to read the standards and our state is one of a few that opted not to participate. (Our governor, an embarrassment to many and loved by many, resists federal mandates. As a result, many educators are worried that our state will likely suffer from not being included from the start.) Here's a link to what I'm talking about:

When I listened to the interview (a while back), it seemed to me that Arne Duncan viewed financial literacy as important but didn't think it could be mandated....probably because there are already too many federal mandates. If, however, there were a way to align with what is already in place, that might solve some of that challenge. (Of course, all of this could change depending how the presidential election comes out.)

Hope any of this makes sense. I wish I were at headquarters working with you on this one. It pulls together my two passion areas. Can you tell?!! Too bad we didn't have time for this discussion "in person" when I was in the area this summer:-)

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Obviously I hadn't looked at the core standards because they seem limited to English and math at this point. I told you Texas is excluded:-)

who is getting back to her real work
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I'm having a nice conversation with myself here:-) JK.

Here's an article fresh off the press that explains what I was trying to explain much better and with breaking news (i.e., Texas is seeking a waiver from No Child Left Behind). There is even more "noise."

Five days into his new job, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced Thursday that he intends to ask the U.S. Education Department for a waiver from several provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

After getting comments from school administrators and the public, Williams plans to make the request to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has general authority to waive federal requirements, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency said.

Gov. Rick Perry has refused to apply for another kind of conditional waiver offered by the Obama administration that state officials said would impose unwanted federal accountability measures on the state's schools.

At least 33 states have sought that type of waiver, which must be requested by the governor's office.

Perry's position has not changed, a spokesman said Thursday.

"Texas has consistently said we would consider all the options and do what is in the best interest of Texas students and our districts," Josh M. Havens said in a statement. "Texas is not applying for Secretary Duncan's conditional waiver, which would force Texas into the Obama administration's one-size-fits-all federal education system that bypasses Congress."

The waiver that Williams is seeking can be requested by TEA, the state's education authority.

In a letter sent to school districts Thursday, Williams wrote that the federal standards have created "an obsolete system that does not adequately reflect the accomplishments of the state's schools. This, combined with [schools] being required to meet and function within two different assessment and accountability systems, takes valuable resources and time away from the intent and focus of improving student achievement and school accountability."

Texas' system -- including college and career readiness standards and the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness standardized tests -- already surpasses federal requirements, Williams wrote.

No Child Left Behind, championed by President George W. Bush, took effect in 2002. The act has been up for renewal since 2007, but Congress hasn't authorized revisions.

Its standards grow more rigorous each year, and Obama administration education officials suggested that waivers would give states more leeway to improve how they prepare and evaluate students.

The federal standards take into account standardized test scores, graduation and attendance rates, and the percentage of students who take the tests.

The goal is to have 100 percent of students at each school reach reading and math test standards by 2014. Results released in August show that some 48 percent of Texas campuses failed to meet this year's standard of an 87 percent passing rate for reading and an 83 percent passing rate for math.

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Definitely not having a conversation with just yourself. Much like Frasier Crane, I'm listening :)

Those are all excellent points you've made. I think the biggest takeaway from any of what I've witnessed thus far is that there is no cookie-cutter way to deal with education. Programs like No Child and Race are good in that they propose solutions, but bad in that they seem to end up, ironically enough, leaving many behind. Whether it's successful students that can continue to move forward or students that need more help. It's obviously not ideal to have a class where some students sit there and twiddle their thumbs as teachers catch others up. But it's also not ideal to leave those catching up behind either.

The one thing I think is blatantly obvious is that there is no one solution. Education (somewhat like real estate) is local. With that said, it's obviously non-negotiable that the basics form the core of any curricula. So reading, writing, math, basic science...these are essentials. Financial literacy I would include in this category as essential. Money and finance are not up for debate. They are a fact of life and each individual has a responsibility to understand how to use it. At least then choices can be made with some understanding of the consequences.

I wonder what the "punishment" would be if a public school in Wyoming (just pulling a name out of a hat) decided to stop teaching math for example? What would happen if a school district in Wyoming decided that hey, math is no longer really essential because really it's just entering numbers in a computer anyway. So we're going to stop teaching math and divert those resources elsewhere. I wonder what would happen? Seriously...I don't know. I mean I would hope the people in that district would freak out and say that's insane. And then I hope that someone with some control over the situation would step in and say you simply can't do that, it's not going to happen.

We need to get to that point with financial literacy.


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