Success Story — Fayette County Public Schools

Economics teacher Jason Eisele spearheaded an initiative to provide Budget Challenge for his school district. Fayette County Public Schools in Georgia had more than 1,000 students across seven schools in the county participate in a simulation this school year. We've asked Jason to provide insight into his experience with the program.

How has Budget Challenge inspired your approach in the classroom?
I teach a semester course in Economics to 12th graders. Personal Finance makes up just 20% of our curriculum. Through doing the Budget Challenge simulation with my students, I have come to realize just how instrumental a skill-based simulation can be for our students. While it is great to talk about personal finance and decision making, nothing is more powerful than having the students build the necessary habits by actually performing the skill. As adults, budgeting and paying bills is easy because we have been doing it for so long. We forget what it was like to be young and clueless. Providing students an opportunity through the Budget Challenge to practice the skills and develop the habits is truly important.

How has Budget Challenge inspired your students in the classroom?
Anytime that you can convince students that what they are learning is going to have a real impact on their lives, you can see their eyes light up. They hunger for relevant learning experiences and the Budget Challenge provides these practical teaching moments in droves.

What difference do you see in your students when engaging in an interactive simulation such as Budget Challenge?
I have a poster in my classroom that reads: "It's easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking, than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting." I see this play out over and over throughout the simulation. Students have a tendency to struggle at first and need quite a bit of guidance. I gradually take off the training wheels and allow the students to develop habits on their own. It is very rewarding to see the students gain confidence throughout the simulation.

What is the best advice you can give a new teacher when implementing Budget Challenge in the classroom?
Take the time in class to help your students set up the Cash Flow Spreadsheet. It is an invaluable tool that, if used properly, will aid your students in making well-informed decisions throughout the simulation.

How do you feel the Summer teacher simulation prepared you in implementing Budget Challenge?
Being able to experience the simulation as a student experiences it was very instructive. It helped me envision when and where students might slip up and provide them opportunities to plan ahead and avoid some of those mistakes. For teachers who have never done the Budget Challenge with their students, the summer teacher simulation is a must. Not only will the summer teacher simulation absolutely sell new teachers on the value that Budget Challenge holds for their students, but it will also better prepare them to implement the program with their students.

What do you think is the most important takeaway from the simulation?
Budgeting is a skill, and like any other skill, it must be practiced. It is easy for teachers to forget that "adulting" is hard -- especially for young people who have never done it before. Just like riding a bike was hard the first time you did it, planning and executing a budget to meet real goals can be just as daunting to someone doing it for the first time. But just as riding a bike becomes easy after a few falls and scraped knees, budgeting can become just as easy with proper practice.