Tuesday, December 16, 2014

RISD Enterprise City - Tackling Financial Literacy

By Brea Ratliff, RME Secondary Mathematics Coordinator

The revised mathematics TEKS for grades K-8 include a strand addressing financial literacy. The student expectations within this strand were developed to ensure students have a fundamental understanding of economics, and the skills connected to being a consumer and investor (TEA, 2012).

While many schools and school districts are for the first time investigating ways to implement these standards, a program created by the Richardson Independent School District could serve as a prototype for educators looking to cultivate students’ understanding of financial literacy using a real-world model.

Enterprise City is a miniaturized representation of an actual city, and is housed on the campus of Canyon Creek Elementary in Richardson, Texas. Almost 30 years ago, Richardson ISD developed Enterprise City to promote students’ understanding of economics through the development of an innovative interdisciplinary curriculum. While students begin ascertaining the essentials of business and financial literacy through classroom experiences, their knowledge is put into action when given the opportunity to manage the operations of the city for one day.

In addition to gaining an appreciation for the fiscal responsibilities of maintaining a city, students are utilizing critical thinking skills and being engaged citizens as they work collaboratively with other students to support businesses and organizations within the city. I had a chance to interview Jodi Freeman, Enterprise City Program Coordinator, to learn more about the program and how it has impacted their district.

How was the Enterprise City curriculum developed?

In 1983 one of our superintendents visited a program called Exchange City in Kansas City. The curriculum was developed based on that program and has been revised several times since then. It teaches basic economic concepts and personal finance.

Several financial literacy concepts have been embedded within the Enterprise City curriculum since it was established in 1985. How has the adoption of the new mathematics TEKS impacted the curriculum?

Our curriculum has focused on PFL and free enterprise from the start. Students complete job applications, practice money management by using a checkbook, maintain a register and understand the purpose of a debit card. They also formulate advertisements for their business, secure a bank loan, and budget for their business as well as develop an understanding of their role as a good citizen.

How has Enterprise City impacted the community (both RISD and the city of Richardson)?

Our program has won several awards, most recently the Magna Award - a national recognition program that honors innovative programs that advance student learning. Hundreds of businesses have generously donated to our program over the past twenty years, city and state leaders and representatives have visited our facility in support of our program and goal of teaching the free enterprise system and we receive several emails/calls per year from prior “citizens” of Enterprise City who want to participate again as a teacher/parent volunteer or have chosen their career path based on what they learned at Enterprise City as a child.

Does the district provide any programs similar to Enterprise City that are available for students in other grades? How has the district addressed the study of financial literacy and economics in other grade levels?

There isn’t another district-wide program in RISD; Enterprise City is the only program offered for our 6th graders. However, some of our high school business classes have used our facility and revised parts of the curriculum to meet their objectives. We also have our high school LOTE (Languages Other Than English) classes attend. The purpose is to give the students a simulation of life in this environment and to use their language for more than just one class period. The rules of the day in the city require that the students speak only their language at all times. Currently, every RISD 6th grade class attends Enterprise City; however, our district has moved the program over the years from one grade level to another. Teachers in various grade levels at different schools have implemented their own economic activities/programs such as classroom economies. Many students learn how to use check registers, apply for jobs and earn money as incentives.

Can students and teachers outside of RISD participate in the Enterprise City program?

Yes, we offer our program to non-RISD schools for a fee. Currently, we have 8 districts, which send several schools within each district and about 20 private schools that participate.

What advice would you give to teachers and instructional leaders looking to implement a similar program in their district?

Do exactly what we did- secure the funding from their community/school district to build a city and implement a similar program and recruit a core group of teachers to develop the curriculum. Anyone interested is welcome to come visit our facility to see the “best city in Texas” first-hand!

To learn more about Enterprise City, visit http://www.richardson.k12.tx.us/enterprisecity/index2.html

(J. Freeman, personal communication, October 23, 2014).

Welcome to Enterprise City. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://www.richardson.k12.tx.us/enterprisecity/index2.html