September 25, 2018
It’s been a busy summer for the Magnetar Capital UChicago Financial Education Initiative team, as we have been revising the first version of the new curriculum. We take pride in our extensive and rigorous revision process, which requires us to collect and analyze thousands of pages of feedback. The feedback comes from a number of sources, which include classroom observations, videotape footage from classrooms, teacher feedback on every lesson, student workbook responses, and feedback from independent reviewers.
For each financial education lesson, team members review the feedback, recommend improvements to the lesson, and collectively decide how to best incorporate the feedback and recommendations. Sometimes navigating differences in feedback can be challenging, but it helps us to see the curriculum in new ways and find creative solutions to improve the curriculum for everyone.
Special thanks to our spring field-test teachers, who provided us with rich feedback that we are incorporating into the latest version of the curriculum. We are looking forward to hearing what our fall field-test teachers have to say about the digital tools that we added to the curriculum. You can be sure that we will take your feedback seriously.
July 26, 2018
The 2017 - 18 school year has been our busiest yet! Thank you to all our partners and supporters for another successful year. We are excited to share with you the many milestones our program achieved, as well as our plans for the upcoming school year.
Our program hit record heights this school year, as we continue to grow and expand! In all, we served 68 schools, 87 teachers, and 4,735 students during the 2017-18 school year--our most to date. We expanding to new cities for the 2018-19 school year --including cities in Missouri, Tennessee, and Central Illinois.
Perhaps our biggest, most exciting update: We successfully wrote and field tested our first version of new curriculum! The curriculum is relevant, rigorous, research-based, and responsive to dynamic changes in the financial world. It is also enjoyable to teach, as it is rich with simulations and opportunities for discussion and reflection. We promise you have never seen anything like it!
Special thanks to our teachers who field-tested our curriculum and provided us with rich feedback. You can learn more about our engineering approach to curriculum design here.
May 15, 2018
Northside College Prep won the 6th Annual Magnetar Academy Team Challenge at Navy Pier on Saturday, March 10th, taking home a school grant of $5,000. This year's competition was the biggest yet, with 400 students representing 48 teams from 34 high schools. Deerfield High School placed second, taking home a $2,500 grant, and Lincoln Park High School placed third for $1,000. The Financial Literacy Quiz winner was Whitney Young Magnet High School.
The trading challenge gave students a unique opportunity to experience what it's like to trade stocks in a simulated competition. The simulation lasted two hours and covered 120 days of historical market data—broken down into two 60-minute sessions. Teams began the day with $100,000 in their portfolios to invest from a pool of over 100 stocks. Profit and loss updates were given every few minutes. Teams built their portfolios using a trading application on a desktop computer. Roughly 50 financial service professionals from Chicago-area firms served as team coaches.
For more highlights, check out Team Challenge 2018: A Recap Told Through Social Media.
January 31, 2018
Session 2 of our fall semester professional development was a full and exciting day. With 33 teachers and eight members of the UChicago team in attendance, along with a professional photographer, a film maker, and a public relations associate from Magnetar, the seventh floor of the Northern Trust building in downtown Chicago was unusually busy for a Saturday.
Goals for the day included exploring the effective use of scenarios and simulations in a financial education classroom, preparing to dive into investing in Units 3 and 4, and strengthening our instructor community. John Anders and his students at Rauner College Prep generously invited us into their classroom to film their engagement in a scenario from Unit 1 Lesson 4. The video greatly enhanced our in-depth look at scenarios. Our focus on teaching investment considered best practices and key concepts. Teachers had the opportunity to get to know each other and work together in break-out sessions, including participating in an investment simulation, planning for implementing scenarios in their classrooms, exploring the Virtual Learning Community, and participating in a focus group to provide input for the new curriculum. Additionally, teachers who are field-testing the new curriculum met with members of the UChicago team to prepare to implement the first module in their classrooms. Veteran teachers met with teachers new to the Magnetar Academy and shared information about additional Academy experiences, such as the Alumni Investment Competition and the Team Challenge.
Thank you to all who participated in this action-packed day!
November 07, 2017
A key goal of the program is to provide a space for Magnetar Academy teachers to learn from each other and to form a community around financial education. This fall, we furthered that goal by introducing a new online community for Magnetar Academy teachers! This Virtual Learning Community (VLC), available on the Magnetar Capital UChicago Financial Education Initiative website, offers three key supports to teachers:
- A Resources page where teachers can view and share instructional tools, planning tools, and other materials.
- A Discussion page where teachers can ask critical questions of other educators and the UChicago staff behind the curriculum.
- A MyPage where teachers can create and organize a library of useful resources.
Just a few months after launch, the Virtual Learning Community is already beginning to take shape. Teachers are having great conversations about topics like teaching budgeting and how to pay for college and they are sharing teaching resources. We look forward to seeing the Community grow over the next few years and encourage you to participate!
Late Summer 2017
August 23, 2017
This summer we released an updated version of Magnetar Academy that addresses many of the “pain points” that teachers identified. The new version of the Magnetar Academy curriculum includes extensive revisions. Highlights include:
- Cumulative Projects: End-of-unit projects provide opportunities for students to apply key concepts and for teachers to assess student learning.Project lessons include differentiation suggestions, student instructions, and task-specific rubrics.
- More Relevant Budgeting Lessons: New and revised activities make budgeting more relevant to students by providing opportunities for students to connect budgeting to their own lives in a meaningful way.
- Consumer Focus: Revised activities provide more opportunities for students to play the role of the consumer.
- Slide Decks: Updated slide decks accompanying each lesson are customizable to meet individual classroom needs.
- Up-to-Date Curriculum: The materials are now timely and current, with updated references and data.
- More Media: More videos and additional links are included to make it easier to extend lessons.
- Student Workbook: Student handouts have been reorganized into workbooks so students can have a collection of their work. Request student copies through our website.
- Better PDFs: All digital materials have been reorganized to make downloading for the classroom easier.
- Standards Alignment: New Introduction Documents include detailed alignment to the Illinois Social Science Standards (2016), the Illinois Consumer Education Standards (2015), and the Common Core Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects (2010). Also included are updated alignments to two sets of national financial literacy standards: Jump$tart’s National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education (2015), and the Council for Economic Education’s National Standards for Financial Literacy (2013).
- Lesson Redesign: Lesson structure has been redesigned for ease of use and clarity. In every lesson, miniature images of student handouts are included at point of use, questions to students are clearly identified, and answers to discussion questions and student handouts are provided.
May 12, 2017
The Magnetar Academy website has a new look! In early April the Magnetar Capital UChicago Financial Education Initiative unveiled a new project website at https://financialeducation.uchicago.edu. The site was created to streamline communications with students, teachers, parents, and the public, as well as to recognize the long-term partnership between Magnetar Capital and the University of Chicago to improve financial education nationwide.
The new website offers:
- An overview of the Financial Education Initiative’s mission, services, and team;
- An archive of Initiative newsletters;
- A user-friendly teacher portal, with all curriculum materials and resources available at point-of-use;
- An online, user-tested professional learning course for teachers;
- A place for interested educators to see inside the materials and learn more about adopting the program;
- A space for students to track ongoing opportunities and get excited.
More features will come over time, including a virtual learning community for teachers to collaborate and share resources!
All are welcome to explore the site and learn more. We encourage current Magnetar Academy teachers to sign up for a site account. Once confirmed, a site account will provide access to all the new materials, resources, and information we are making available to educators.
April 17, 2017
The Magnetar Capital UChicago Financial Education Initiative recently debuted one of its first major new products: an online professional learning course for financial literacy teachers! The course offers five modules on key financial content:
- saving and spending,
- employment and income,
- investing, and
- risk management and insurance.
Each module is designed to draw on teachers’ preexisting knowledge and experience with finance, and to build teachers’ confidence in the content they will be teaching to students. The course is currently being tested by a small group of pilot teachers and will be offered to all Magnetar Academy teachers in the fall of 2017.
Initiative staff developed the course over the past year. We started by identifying fundamental content in each domain and defining the big ideas associated with it that Magnetar Academy teachers need to know. We also explored various platforms for delivering high-quality learning experiences online. Over time, we built five online modules to help teachers master the content actively through video lessons, applications, reflection questions, and self-assessments.
Our online course is just one part of the Initiative’s ongoing efforts to build teacher community and provide top-notch professional development. Next school year, the Initiative will offer a suite of professional development supports, including the content-focused online course, two days of in-person, pedagogy-centered workshops, and an online community space where Magnetar Academy teachers can share ideas and resources. The Initiative will also continue holding social events for teachers, including dinners and cocktail hours, making for rich and inspirational interaction between teachers and Initiative staff.
March 08, 2017
The Magnetar Capital UChicago Financial Education Initiative was launched in July 2016 to develop the tools, resources, and capacity to spread robust financial education across America. The Initiative will oversee and expand Magnetar Academy, a comprehensive financial education course for Chicagoland high school students, coupled with professional development and networks for financial education teachers and strategic support for schools and districts seeking to ensure their graduates are financially empowered. Originally created by Magnetar Capital, an Evanston-based investment firm, the program has reached more than 5,500 high school students in about 300 Chicago area high school classrooms.
Housed at UChicago STEM Education, the Magnetar Capital UChicago Financial Education Initiative will tap into the group’s expertise in learning science, curriculum design, digital tool development, assessment, and experience with schools and districts.
Much of the summer and early fall was spent transitioning the project to the University of Chicago. Jenn Hockema and Charu Gupta are now part of the team here at the University along with some new staff members.
We spent time getting to know all aspects of the program. The team identified the external pieces of the curriculum currently in Magnetar Academy materials and began a coordinated effort to gain permissions for copyrighted materials, since the work is housed at the university.
In addition, we inventoried and decided on the status of certain program features. As we wrote to you earlier this fall, we’ve eliminated a few features (Schwab accounts) and have begun work on new elements that we’ll be updating you about periodically.
Last spring and again this fall, we’ve been out in schools observing Magnetar in action! An important part of designing and improving curriculum and associated teacher supports is observing and connecting with implementing teachers and students in classrooms. This work:
- Allows development staff to see and feel how the materials are enacted;
- Ensures that designs mesh with local and practical classroom needs;
- Strengthens relationships, to leverage improvement efforts down the road.
We look forward to seeing your classroom and hearing your thoughts about the program.
Best wishes for the New Year!
The Magnetar Capital UChicago Financial
Education Initiative Team
Professional Development and Social Events
Bogan Computer Technical High School
“Students can apply everything they are learning in this course to the real world. In most cases, they can start applying it now. This course gets conversations going and not just in my classroom. I have parents at report card pick-up telling me that their children come home and tell them what they are learning.”
What We're Reading
The New Geography of Jobs
By Dr. Enrico Moretti
Check here for updates on our progress in spreading robust financial education across America.