Junior Achievement Partners with Howard Co. Public Schools To Launch Middle School Economics Education Program


JAClaire Napoli, Natalie Rivera, Mamie Perkins (HCPSS deputy superintendent), Autumn Durham [The students are Lime Kiln Middle School 8th graders.]



Through a new educational partnership between Junior Achievement of Central Maryland (JACMD) and the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), eighth graders at all HCPSS middle schools will complete JA Finance Park, a comprehensive economics education program.


“Establishing this educational partnership with Junior Achievement allows us to support teachers and families with multiple resources related to financial education,” said Sydney Cousin, Howard County Superintendent of Schools. “This interactive approach to learning brings personal finance to life for our students with help from community experts.”

“We welcome the opportunity to partner with Junior Achievement, which has been making financial education interesting and engaging for children in Maryland for more than 50 years,” said Sandra French, chairman of the Howard County Board of Education. “Our community partnerships are vital because they support teachers by reinforcing the skills students are currently learning in the classroom.”

The vision of the JACMD-HCPSS partnership is “to build young people’s capacity to spur economic development and contribute to Maryland and America’s global competitiveness.”

Its mission is “to ensure college and career readiness by providing students with an education in personal financial literacy in order to inspire and prepare them for economic self-sufficiency and success in a global economy.”

In June 2010, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) adopted regulations requiring local school systems to implement financial education standards for grades 3-12 beginning September 2011. The new regulation is un-funded, and each school system must determine the best implementation model for their teachers and students.

As a member of the MSDE Financial Literacy Standards Design Team and the Advisory Council, JACMD has been closely involved in all aspects of this new requirement from the state level, as well as the local school level.

Additionally, a fall 2010 MSDE survey of local financial literacy coordinators reported that many resources exist at the high school level with limited resources at the middle and elementary levels. To support new state financial literacy requirements while also targeting an area of high need, JACMD proposed JA Finance Park as a solution to meet new middle grade financial literacy standards.

JA Finance Park teaches such skills and concepts as: Credit and Debt, Saving and Investing, Taxes, Income and Social Security, Pricing Research, Planning: Budgeting and Money Management and Career Goals.

Following 19 teacher-led sessions, the program culminates in an online personal finance simulation where students apply learned concepts in a life-like “virtual” community. Upon entering JA Finance Park, students are assigned a unique “life situation,” which details their adult persona, including marital status, number of children (if any), education, employment and income.

“This partnership showcases the Howard County Public School System’s commitment to ensuring every student receives financial education,” said Jennifer Bodensiek, president of Junior Achievement of Central Maryland. “We applaud their initiative as a leader in this effort.”

In August, JACMD trained more than 21 HCPSS family and consumer science teachers to meet personal and student learning needs. Those teachers will receive MSDE Continuing Professional Development Credit toward teacher re-certification.

The non-profit also provided all curriculum materials for teachers and students including: teacher guides, software, on-site support, student workbooks and parent take-home materials to support continued learning and family discussions. Additionally, JACMD assigned representatives to support classroom teachers, and provide advice and support as needed.

JA Finance Park instruction commenced in September and already has generated positive outcomes.

“Through JA Finance Park, students are learning first-hand the importance of a dollar and the consequences of their financial decisions in a fun, interactive way,” Cousin said.

Just ask some eighth graders at Lime Kiln Middle School in Fulton.

“The simulation game taught me how to calculate things related to money such as my stock portfolio,” said Richard Do. “It reinforced concepts to remember later in life.”

“Since JA Finance Park gives me real-life examples, I have a better understanding of what I have to do when I get older,” said Claire Napoli.

Their teacher concurs. “This is a great program that teaches how to budget and make wise spending and investing decisions,” said Cynthia Dupski, related arts team leader, family and consumer science teacher. “Ultimately, it gives the students insight into their financial decision making future.”

“We teach financial literacy in sixth through eighth grade,” she adds. “The simulation game culminates everything.”

Moving forward, JACMD will collaborate with HCPSS to find meaningful ways to engage community volunteers and parents to support the student learning process, bringing relevant examples into the classroom and extended learning opportunities at home.

Overall, the HCPSS has the largest number of students participating in JA Finance Park. Baltimore City Public Schools, Kent County Public Schools and the Archdiocese of Baltimore recently began system-wide implementation. JACMD will expand the program as additional counties and schools show interest.

Provided at no cost to the participating schools or students, JA Finance Park is funded locally through sponsorships by The Allstate Foundation, The Citi Foundation, First Financial Credit Union, France-Merrick Foundation, The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, The Marion I. & Henry Knott Foundation, The New York Life Foundation, Toyota Financial Services and University of Phoenix.

About Junior Achievement of Central Maryland

Junior Achievement of Central Maryland is dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through a dedicated volunteer network, Junior Achievement provides in-school and after-school programs for kindergarten through 12th grade students which focus on work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Founded in 1957, the non-profit organization annually serves more than 20,000 students throughout Central Maryland. For more information, visit jamaryland.org.