Category Voices
Author By Rebecca Lange-Thernes

Stocks in the Future is honored to be a part of the CSOS at 50 blog project to celebrate so many years of success in education research and innovation. Stocks in the Future (SIF) is a relatively “new” program, being two years short our twentieth anniversary. Have some fun with me as I create a little parallel between Stocks in the Future and the songs of New Kids on the Block. Remember their great hit Hang Tough? “Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh….We’re going a put you in a trance with a funky song!” At SIF, we like to think as ourselves as “putting you in a trance finance strong!”

The Right Stuff

“First time was a great time, Second time was a blast, Third time I fell in love…” NKOTB 1988.

SIF Brief History

In 2000, Pat Bernstein approached Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS) with the idea of creating a program linking student attendance and academic performance with financial education to improve student success in school. A three year curriculum for middle schoolers in underserved areas was developed to teach investment fundamentals. The program included incentives for good attendance and academic improvements in school, which enabled students to make real investments in stocks. The students accumulate their stock investments and can gain control of the funds when they graduate from high school.

The pilot stage showed a high level of interest that produced desired results and encouraged the program’s transition to an important supplemental subject in the middle grades. An increasing number of students made actual stock purchases, which indicated that students were meeting goals for improving attendance and grades. Teachers recognized the educational benefits of Stocks in the Future (SIF), and there was important simultaneous learning among families.

Data Driven Program

Like all research and development programs at CSOS, we depend on data to drive SIF. The first formal study conducted by our colleague Dr. Douglas Mac Iver was presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in Montreal in 2005. Results showed that SIF reversed 5th graders tendency for poor attendance. SIF middle school students attended school 10 days more than the control group. Further, SIF 7th graders scored 31% higher and SIF 6th grades scored 18% higher on the JHU Short Achievement Test.
Fast forward to 2016. The Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) published its study of SIF indicating that 7th grade financial vocabulary scores grew 15%; 7th grade math scores grew 7%; 8th grade math scores grew 15%; and 8th grade reading comprehension scores grew 10%. Also, 6th grade students’ financial self-efficacy increased by 6.7% from a base of 64.7%, and 85.9% of SIF classrooms were rated as overwhelmingly orderly, which allowed students to get the most out of the curriculum. We continue to collect and analyze data each year to monitor results of SIF for students. This gives us a road map to see what we’re doing right and where we need to make improvements.

501c3 Status and Action in Schools

What makes us unique at CSOS is that SIF operates as an independent nonprofit. This year, SIF is working in 18 schools with 900 students. We are guided by more than 60 volunteers who serve on our Board and on three committees—Program, Marketing, and Finance. Others serve as guest presenters in our students’ classrooms, train the teachers of SIF classrooms, and/or work at fundraiser events. This great group of finance professionals working alongside the education community has allowed people with different mindsets and backgrounds to come together with a common vision: Develop more successful middle school students who are gaining financial literacy skills with real-world benefits.

Step by Step

“Step one! We can have lots of fun, Step two! There’s so much we can do!” NKOTB 1998

Strategic Planning

With the finance and education communities working together and using research to guide action, SIF has conducted some pretty innovative programmatic work during our latest strategic planning cycle. This began in the fall of 2014 when the SIF Curriculum Task Force Committee was formed with the goal of aligning the SIF curriculum with Common Core State Standards in Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Technology. We also strengthened math concepts in every lesson and developed a crosswalk between the Maryland State Department of Education’s Financial Literacy Mandate with SIF resources.

The Committee recommended that we edit and update the SIF curriculum. This resulted in adding more basic financial education concepts along with more information to make our students stronger Mutual Fund Consumers. We’re happy to say that we’ve accomplished this recommendation plus more. This includes The Capstone Project, written by volunteers at T Rowe Price, which guides students to design their own mutual fund package. We’ve held an SIF 8th Grade Rally each year at Enoch Pratt Free Library to recognize with certificates and prizes all students who completed the SIF program and who were high earners in their stock portfolios. See photos at

Hangin’ Tough

“Get loose everybody ‘cause we’re gonna do our thing…” NKOTB 1988
As we head from one strategic planning cycle into another, I’d like to introduce three Areas of Concentration for the future.

  1. Technology
    SIF’s internal website for record keeping is 19 Years old. The site holds all of our data and SIF student portfolios, which operate in real time. The design is outdated and needs to be merged with the program’s official site: also plan to develop narrated PowerPoints to help teachers become more successful facilitators of SIF class sessions.
  2. Mentoring
    We will explore ways to continue relationship-building with SIF students after middle school. We aim to partner with existing mentoring programs in the area. This would help students build additional financial literacy skills through HS, and increase the number of students who gain control of their accumulated funds at graduation. See the alumni from SIF discussing their experiences.
  3. Scaling Up
    SIF will be looking beyond Baltimore City Schools to work in other schools in other cities.

SIF has come a long way! We have nearly completed our first strategic plan, upgraded our website, improved the curriculum, expanded our donor base, and completed two studies that indicate that SIF students improve their attendance and other school outcomes. Our next strategic plan includes additional software upgrades, scaling up the operation into other locations, and engaging with our donors.

“You get the lights and I’ll get the camera. Let’s get to the action!” NKOTB 2008

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