‘You never hear complaints about learning about money.’
MAKING CENTS: Robert Scaffardi, academic-program director at New England Laborers/Cranston Public Schools Construction and Career Academy, speaks to students at the school. His efforts spurred a financial-literacy curriculum at the 240-student school.
Robert Scaffardi, academic-program director at a Cranston charter school, noticed about four years ago that teachers at the secondary school were each covering different aspects of personal finance in their classes, with no overall coordination and no plan to ensure instruction on key aspects of personal financial competency.
One teacher would talk about balancing a checkbook, another taught about taxes, a third might explain the nature of loans, Scaffardi said. Because the school has no business department, Scaffardi took it upon himself to check out national standards for teaching financial literacy, and he reached out to a local organization for assistance, the Rhode Island Jump Start Coalition. The nonprofit is comprised of academic, business and civic partners and advocates for greater personal financial capability.
The result is a formal financial-literacy curriculum at the 240-student New England Laborers/Cranston Public Schools Construction and Career Academy for Grades 9 through 12, a curriculum that fuses practical finances into every major subject area from history to math and English, Scaffardi said.
“What I’ve found fascinating about financial literacy is that these kids can take this information, and it is usable the next morning,” he said. “[Financial matters] are not just nice things to know, they are truly survival skills now, and it is not a hard sell because these kids are thirsting for this information. You never hear complaints about learning about money.”
Driving home the crucial significance of personal financial competency, as this Cranston school does every day, is what the Jump Start Coalition is all about. The coalition works with educators, social workers and businesses to promote financial literacy and, according to Jim Hedemark, executive director, this year begins a push to involve more businesses in promoting workplace literacy.
But the work is best begun at home.
Research has shown, Hedemark said, that the earlier young people learn about financial literacy, the more likely it is they will enjoy a lifetime of full employment. The more finances are discussed in the home, he said, the better young people will be able to deal with weighty workplace and financial decisions affecting their lives far into the future.