Deb Stroh

Gibbon High School teacher Deb Stroh appears in her classroom in September of last year with students Ethan Weisshaar and Joscelyn Martinez. Both graduated in 2014.

Deb Stroh, the 2013 Teacher of the Year for the Nebraska Department of the American Legion, has no illusions about the challenge of teaching high school kids financial concepts.

"You're right, insurance is boring, let's be real," the Gibbon High School teacher said Tuesday.

But she knows that engaging young people with multimedia serves the purpose, and EverFi, an educational technology company, does the job with its online financial literacy program. 

Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg, trustee of the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust, the college savings plan, made the EverFi program available starting last school year at no cost to the 81 school districts that used it.

Stenberg reported on the first year's results Tuesday. Among the topics covered in the program are saving, banking, investing, renting versus owning, credit scores, taxes and insurance, and consumer fraud.

Stroh offers the Everfi program as a supplement to traditional teaching methods in her personal finance class, an elective she wishes were a requirement. 

"They can be kind of in their own world sometimes," she said with a laugh. "It's an abundant learning environment.

"I can turn to these modules, and students can get it as a reinforcement or an introduction, but it's definitely a supplement. There are fun videos. Some of the characters are a little goofy and make bad decisions. They make it like a treasure hunt on your screen. If the student answers the questions, they get harder, and that's engaging for students. If you're not doing so well, the questions aren't so difficult. So that's nice."

It's part of blended learning, using a textbook, discussion in class, collaboration, other activities and multimedia.  

"It feeds right back into a portal so I can see their progress," she said. And she can push them harder to achieve. "It's resume building."

More than 2,200 Nebraska students used the program last school year. Of that number, 977 students completed all nine modules of the program to be certified as Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars, Stenberg reported Tuesday.

The rate of school adoption has made it one of the most successful first-year programs of any of EverFi’s state partnerships, Stenberg said in a news release.

In addition to the 81 schools using the EverFi program through Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars, another 39 high schools in Nebraska are providing the EverFi program through the sponsorship or co-sponsorship of local banks, Stenberg said.

The EverFi program is made available to students in Lincoln Public Schools through the sponsorship of Union Bank and Trust Co. and Nelnet.

"Financial literacy is one of today’s critical life skills," Stenberg said. "Students need this essential knowledge to make wise financial decisions in their lifetimes.”

Stenberg offered these observations about the first year of Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars:

* The average knowledge gain of Nebraska students, according to pre- and post-assessment surveys, was 21 percentage points.

* The largest knowledge gains were in the modules that addressed taxes and insurance, credit scores and investing. In those subject areas, students’ knowledge level was up 29 to 30 percentage points, Stenberg said.

* More modest gains were in the subject areas of renting versus owning, where the average knowledge gain was 9 percentage points, and consumer fraud, where the average gain was 7 percentage points.

Schools interested in adding Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars to their curriculum may contact Rachel Biar in the Treasurer’s Office at 402-471-1088 or Jessica Feimer of EverFi at 402-651-7171. More information is available at the State Treasurer’s website, www.treasurer.org

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or at dpiersol@journalstar.com. Twitter@RichardPiersol


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