Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Impacts of Ja Biztown on Improving Financial Literacy among Middle-School Students

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Impacts of Ja Biztown on Improving Financial Literacy among Middle-School Students

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Low financial literacy among American students causes serious concern among educators and education advocacy groups [ACEC, 2002; ASEC, 1999]. Because of the current economic situation, more schools realize the importance and urgency for students to acquire literacy in economics and finance during their earlier years [American School Board Journal, 2008; Black, 2009; Finkel, 2010; Varcoe et al., 2005]. The Oklahoma legislature signed The Passport to Financial Literacy Act in 2007, requiring all seventh-graders demonstrate proficiency in 14 financial areas [Black, 2009]. Different states around the country and the companies in the private sector have developed similar finance programs for schools.

The program used in this study is JA BizTown. JA BizTown is designed to inspire and prepare 5th and 6th grade students for a lifetime of learning and academic achievement through career exploration and financial literacy. Research shows that career development begins in early childhood and peaks at age 10 when students often model their behavior and career aspirations after their parents [Auger, 2005]. According to a 2009 report from a U.S. Census survey in the metro area, 47% of area workers earn less than a sustainable, self-sufficiency wage of $35,000 annually for a family of four, and Louisiana is ranked 2nd in the nation where a child is more likely to become homeless. In Orleans Parish, an average of 81% of our students is receiving free or reduced lunch benefits as a result of poverty. Through JA BizTown for 5th and 6th grade students, Junior Achievement (JA) provides memorable, motivational experiences to this vulnerable population that allow them to look beyond their current circumstances and envision a life of self-sufficiency, in which needs are met and dreams become reality. JA BizTown strengthens student assurance in their own abilities to approach challenges and master challenges with success. With so many or our children in metro area schools from disadvantaged families, a child's self-efficacy - his belief in himself to achieve success, socially and economically in adult life - becomes key to his success - as a student, as a consumer and as a future leader in our society. These motivational factors become "rooted in the core belief that one has the power to produce effects by one's actions" [Bandura et al, 2001]. Through hands-on, in-class learning in daily lessons, a simulation experience where students construct knowledge and value from direct experiences, and reflection on personal actions, students develop an understanding of the relationship between what they learn in school and confidence in their own ability to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

In case studies of adults in financial crisis, financial literacy education is vital to their successful recovery. In New Orleans, the United Way, Project Reach, the Salvation Army and many other organizations provide adult financial literacy education in recognition of its importance. JA is confident that financial literacy education before a crisis occurs will help alleviate this demand on our social structure and inspire our children to go beyond their disadvantage circumstances toward a brighter future. JA BizTown was piloted in nine cities, including New Orleans, and its proven curriculum equips our young people with the skills they need to achieve this future. By providing the simulation experience, JA creates an experiential learning environment that has a connection to the real world beyond the school walls and provides a memorable experience in financial literacy - a memory that will last a lifetime through their future decisions as workers, community leaders and consumers. Our children study art; however, art becomes a living experience when a paint brush and art supplies are given to the child. The experience of viewing a painting in a museum is just as memorable. It is only through JA BizTown that our children will experience the business of life - working as an employee or supervisor, balancing a checkbook, paying loans, being responsible for their safety and the safety of others and much more in the real world of work. …

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