JEFFERSON — A Jefferson Middle School teacher is among the educators, businesspeople and Department of Public Instruction officials helping the State of Wisconsin hammer out its new personal finance education standards.
Social studies teacher Erich Utrie said he was very honored when the DPI invited him to be part of the process. He said his name probably came up due to recent presentations at a state economics education conference and his work with the state last year to develop the “Don’t Be Jack” personal finance game.
The Jefferson teacher is among around 30 people consulting in the process, representing the DPI, the state’s Office of Financial Literacy, teachers from across the state and the business community.
The coordinators of the meeting emphasized that while the final decision falls to the DPI, it’s important to get feedback from the “people in the trenches:” the teachers, business leaders and government personnel who dealt with these issues on a daily basis, Utrie said.
The idea is to look at the state’s personal finance standards from multiple perspectives and to make them meaningful and developmentally appropriate at every level from kindergarten through high school.
The state last updated its personal finance standards in 2006, and a lot can change in that time, Utrie said.
The process takes into account what’s going on nationwide in terms of standards, the latest research on how students learn best, and trends in the larger financial world such as technology upgrades and the emergence of alternative currencies.
The state just finalized its overall social studies standards, Utrie noted, making them more inquiry- and skill-based rather than content-based. The state also has changed the age bands to be more specific about when certain concepts should be taught, breaking it down into kindergarten through second grade, third- through fifth grade, middle school and high school.
At each level, planners looked at the knowledge strands that should be covered, making the objectives clearer and building in measurable performance indicators — visible ways to track student learning or what students can do, create or perform based on what they have learned.
Personal finance covers more than just social studies, however, Utrie noted. This topic is taught from different perspectives in Family and Consumer Education and Business Education as well.
Thus, planners needed input not only from teachers at different levels, but also from different disciplines.
The first meeting took place at Comfort Suites in Johnson Creek and the second is set in Madison. But in between group sessions, consultants are expected to investigate further on the specific topics they’ve taken on.
For example, Utrie is part of a three-person team focusing in on risk management in finance.
The timeline for the process is pretty tight, Utrie said. The overall group is shooting for completing a rough draft of its personal finance standards recommendations in mid-June, with another meeting Aug. 20 to bring the final version together.
Then the standards will be in the hands of the DPI, with the goal of final approval in late October.
“I really like being able to work with such a broad cross-section of people,” Utrie said. “I am really happy to be on the team. We work well together and bring in different perspectives.”
The Jefferson teacher noted that the vast majority of the people serving on the consulting team are there in a volunteer capacity, giving of their time in an effort to better personal finance education for students statewide.
“It’s a real team effort,” he said.