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Making the grade? Atlanta and St. Louis Feds assess education programs

photo of hand holding pencil on test sheet

Just a few months after he was appointed Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke issued a message to the public in July 2006 stating that "Educating the public about the Federal Reserve's monetary policy objectives and actions helps build confidence in our economic system—another critical factor in keeping our economy running smoothly."

Understanding and applying economic and financial concepts is also an important foundation for making informed and sound decisions as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs, and participants in the global economy. Teachers have a unique opportunity—through providing students training in economic and personal finance—to improve students' ability to make decisions that enhance their well-being. To that end, the Federal Reserve Banks provide economic and personal finance education to teachers, students, and the general public through a variety of programs and outreach efforts.

Related Links
Economic and Financial Education Assessment

Why assess programs?
To ensure that they are allocating their resources to the most productive programs, the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis are conducting a thorough assessment of their financial and economic education efforts.

In 2008 internal subject matter experts, academic researchers, civic and community leaders, corporate officers, and consultants convened to develop a project plan and metrics to gauge the programs' effectiveness. The assessment team defined success as a significant change in knowledge and behavior in audiences exposed to Federal Reserve education efforts. Thus far, the banks have refined their mission statements, created standards against which to measure the performance of programs, and created and implemented assessment tools to evaluate several pilot-study programs.

The first phase of the assessment examined teacher workshops for middle and high school economics teachers as well as adult financial education programs designed to help consumers reestablish checking accounts. The initial findings show that workshops are effective in increasing teachers' subject matter knowledge and that the majority of workshop participants are using Fed materials afterward in their classrooms.

What are the next steps?
Going forward through the completion of the assessment in 2010, the Atlanta and St. Louis Feds will use the education standards and evaluation instruments to assess the remainder of their activities, including additional workshops, conferences, newsletters, and tours. The banks will also develop strategies for leveraging educational technology to increase access to their programs and will continue to communicate their findings on successful practices to the education community.

By Sara Messina, economic and financial education specialist, Jacksonville Branch

November 9, 2009