Effective programs yield a better-informed public

Effective programs yield a better-informed public

Updated September 2009

The Federal Reserve Banks educate the public about the macroeconomy and the Fed's unique role in promoting maximum sustainable employment growth and price stability. Advocating for and assisting with economic and financial education to help citizens make financial decisions is a related role. The Federal Reserve's effectiveness in conducting monetary policy and banking supervision, in developing and enforcing regulation, and in maintaining a stable economy depends upon the participation and support of an informed public.

Toward that end, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis have undertaken a rigorous assessment to identify their most effective education programs. The Banks provide education opportunities to teachers, students, and others through a variety of programs and outreach efforts.

The assessment is being conducted by Paul Grimes, associate dean and professor of economics at Mississippi State University, and Bill Bosshardt, associate professor of economics and director of the Center for Economic Education at Florida Atlantic University.

The assessment's results will enable the Reserve Banks to focus their education efforts on tactics and strategies that have been proven successful. This sharpened focus will optimize the Banks' resource commitment to economic and financial education. An informed public, in turn, contributes to optimal economic performance.

The two Reserve Banks' efforts to educate their constituencies can be strengthened through evaluation of current efforts and the sharing of successful practices within the Federal Reserve System and throughout the broader communities of interest.

Success is defined by Atlanta and St. Louis as change in knowledge and behavior

  • In 2008, the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis began assessing and evaluating economic and financial education programs. The partnership emerged as part of a mutual desire to ensure their programs' effectiveness as validated by formal assessment tools.
  • Internal subject matter experts, academic researchers, civic and community leaders, Bank officers, and experienced consultants developed a project plan and success metrics.
  • The assessment team defined success as a significant change in knowledge and behavior in audiences exposed to Federal Reserve education efforts.

Initial findings show positive results with teachers and call for a refinement of scope

  • The Banks saw positive results in teacher training:

    • Participants' average scores rose by a statistically significant 18.6 percent, according to pre- and post-workshop tests.
    • Ninety percent of workshop participants indicated their intention to use their learning and Federal Reserve materials in the classroom.
    • Approximately 60 percent of participants reported use of Federal Reserve materials in the weeks immediately following their workshop.

  • The Banks built upon the mission statement, refining it to ensure alignment with program scope:

    "To help the public make informed economic and financial decisions, the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis conduct programs and forge partnerships that provide access to impartial economic and financial education primarily to middle and high school teachers and organizations serving low- to moderate-income audiences."
  • The Banks developed two sets of standards to develop and authenticate goal-related outcomes, drawing on standards of the Council for Economic Education and Jump$tart. These standards, for use by the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis, provide benchmarks for what 8th grade students, 12th grade students, and teachers should know about the Fed and personal finance. The two sets of standards are

    1. Education Standards for Teaching about the Federal Reserve System

    2. Personal Finance Standards
  • The Banks created, tested, and used assessment instruments in three pilot studies These Fed-specific instruments include a pre-evaluation survey, pre- and post-tests, and follow-up surveys. Knowledge gain, behavior change, and audience reach are measured by these tools.

The study results will drive the allocation of resources toward the most effective programs

Next steps:

  • The Banks will use the education standards and evaluation instruments to assess 10 additional outreach programs and activities, including other workshops, conferences, newsletters, and tours.
  • The Banks plan to continue application of tests for Fed educational programs.
  • The Banks will continue to communicate assessment results and findings on successful practices. Final results are expected in 2010.

A partial list of current educational programs offered by the Atlanta and St. Louis Federal Reserve Banks includes

  • over 100 professional-development workshops a year by each bank for teachers on Federal ReserveĆ¢??related and personal financial topics;
  • original curriculum for middle school and high school classrooms;
  • newsletters, brochures, DVDs, online lesson plans, and activities for teachers;
  • exhibits at educator conferences;
  • guided tour programs at five Atlanta Fed locations;
  • a lesson-plan contest for Sixth District teachers on Federal ReserveĆ¢??related topics.