Colorado currently does not require students to learn economics or personal finance skills to graduate, but there’s one non-profit organization that is bridging that gap, empowering young people to achieve a lifetime of economic understanding and financial freedom.
Economic Literacy Colorado is the only organization in the state providing programs that reach and educate 1,500 teachers a year who then help more than 100,000 students in most of the 178 school districts.
“We want our state’s youth to understand economics and personal financial literacy so they can make smart choices throughout their lives,” said Debbie Pierce, president and CEO of Economic Literacy Colorado, which is an independent affiliate of the Council for Economic Education. “Our organization is dedicated to providing resources and programs that will improve critical thinking skills and teach basic economic concepts that will be used throughout life.”
Economic Literacy Colorado educates K-12 teachers from private, public, charter, and online schools as well as homeschooling groups, and offers University of Colorado, Colorado Springs-accredited professional development classes, workshops, online programs, and school or district trainings across the state. The organization’s programs are taught by expert economics professors, who are highly qualified in classroom methodology and delivering useful resources.
“Our classroom and workshop offerings are available at minimal cost and include high-quality mentors who assist with lectures and provide lessons and related activities,” added Pierce. “Every five years, teachers need six university credit hours to renew their license and we can help them meet that requirement.”
The organization’s popular program for elementary, middle school and high-school-aged students is its Stock Market Experience™ which is a virtual, online course providing hands-on stock market experience. The 10-week program is offered in the fall and spring. Students are given a mock $100,000 portfolio and then work in teams to invest virtually as they learn about which choices cause certain consequences. All teams are eligible to compete for performance awards in a ceremony that takes place every spring.
“This program is important because it teaches young people critical thinking skills, which are vital to their success going forward,” said Pierce. “Not only do they have to make smart decisions about investments, but they also need to think things through thoroughly, rather than memorizing concepts. They’re basically learning how to think, not what to think.”
Economic Literacy Colorado’s professional development classes are offered in various formats, including Saturday classes on specific topics, a week-long Methods for Teaching Personal Finance class for secondary teachers, and a six-week online course for elementary teachers. They also have contests and awards for students, such as their $2,000 Young Economist Scholarship and their Calendar Contest that awards students for submitting winning pictures of financial concepts to be used in their annual calendar.
At the end of every class, teachers complete an evaluation. To date, 93% of participating teachers state that the class they took will help make them a more effective teacher; 98% state that the class was personally enriching, and 99% say they would recommend a class to other teachers.
Last year, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office introduced the MoneyWi$er Initiative to reach more students and teachers about personal financial literacy. Economic Literacy Colorado was selected to produce and implement 15 workshops over three years, with the goal of reaching nearly 100 teachers per workshop, teaching them about Colorado’s Personal Financial standards for each and every grade, along with lessons and activities for their classroom that align with these expectations. In addition, teachers learn valuable financial information to help them in their personal lives.
Daniels Fund Grant Motivates Students to Achieve Future Economic Success
Economic Literacy Colorado has recently received a two-year, $250,000 Daniels Fund grant to support economic
s and personal financial literacy education for Colorado K-12 teachers and students. The Daniels Fund, established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, is a private charitable foundation dedicated to making life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming through its grants and scholarship programs, and ethics initiative.
Over the next 24 months, the funds will be used to provide professional development programs for 3,000 teachers, and to continue offering the Stock Market Experience™ directly to 40,000 participating students. It will also provide for revision and distribution of its “Free Enterprise” education booklet to hundreds of teachers, individuals, and businesses throughout the state.
“We are so thankful to the Daniels Fund for supporting our mission to educate Colorado teachers and students about economics and personal finance,” said Pierce. “Bill Daniels once remarked, ‘Our free enterprise system is the 8th wonder of the world. The 9th wonder is that so few people understand it.’ Opening the eyes of students to a world of opportunity and allowing them to engage in our economic system by participating in the global marketplace directly addresses Mr. Daniels’ concern. The Daniels Fund and Economic Literacy Colorado are committed to preparing students for success in their personal, professional, and civic lives.”
Future Growth, Fundraising, and Volunteering Opportunities
In order to grow and increase its offerings, Economic Literacy Colorado wants to hire additional staff members as well as recruit volunteers. The organization welcomes quality mentors who can volunteer their time in the classroom helping the teachers and students with the fall session of the Stock Market Experience program.
On October 10, 2019, the organization is holding the Adam Smith Award Dinner (Adam Smith is known as the “father of economics”) which will honor businessman and former Colorado senator Terry Considine and include guest speaker Stephen Moore. The event will take place at the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Center for Performing Arts.
“As we grow, we’re looking forward to launching Invest in Girls, a program to help high school girls become more financially knowledgeable in a world where males are leading in economic and financial institutions,” said Pierce. “For girls who like math, it’s important that they realize there are many career opportunities out there. They will learn important financial skills, meet female mentors and take a field trip to an office where they experience a day in the life of being a financially astute businesswoman.”
What Can Parents Do?
The organization is also looking for parent advocates to connect to individual schools and help teachers and administrators understand the importance of financial literacy.
“We’re willing to do in-service training at schools which will highlight the importance of the knowledge we provide and to reach more educators and students,” added Pierce.
Economic Literacy Colorado, formerly Colorado Council for Economic Education, was established in 1971 to address the gap between what students were learning about economics and finance. Over the decades, it has successfully expanded its programs.
For more information, to register for the fundraiser, or to volunteer, please visit https://www.EconLitCo.org or call 303-752-2323.