Patrick Henry Middle School Research

Research funded by Texas Financial Education Endowment, HCDE Case and Erwing Realty

Research Executive Summary

Research Question

Does participation in Career Discovery, a career- and college-ready middle school curriculum, achieve increased academic performance in  7th grade students?

Research Hypothesis

If students complete a curriculum of personal finances, career discovery, and post-secondary education planning – and that course is integrated with critical thinking, problem solving, team building, project-based learning – they will seek challenging careers, discover relevance in education, take responsibility for their actions, increase their grit, perseverance, and academic performance. (Decker, 2014).

Results – Quantitative

  • Students completing 50% or more of the after-school course increased math, science and English grades an average of 4.2%, compared to 1.42% for the control group.
  • Students who attended any of the classes increased their grit and perseverance score by an average of 6.6%, compared with an average of 1.73% for students who did not attend any sessions.

Results – Qualitative

Students, parents, teachers, and  volunteers expressed five qualitative themes of student development:

  • Change employment focus from physical jobs to thinking careers requiring college
  • Change focus from desire to attend college to necessity of completing college.
  • Desire to use future financial success to help others.
  • Students want to earn higher grades, read more, do research and solve problems, and have careers that would result in a higher standard of living than their current standard of living.
  • Parents, faculty and volunteers observed subjects taking responsibility and initiative in school and at home.

Observation / Recommendation – Students should be encouraged to take classes with FMA components that provide real-life skills and a future focus. Students also build grit and perseverance needed in life and develop an intrinsic motivation to succeed.

One word of caution: absent material with a future focus, integrating critical thinking, problem solving, team building and other components of FMA courses, we believe a typical personal financial literacy course would not produce the same results. Underserved students, trapped in their current economic circumstances, would not see the relevance of sophisticated financial concepts and advanced education to their future. 

Special thanks to Sarah Stafford, Aurora Dinstel, Brittany Johnson, Nibal Markus, Pam Stroud, Harold Lopez, Brian Smith, Ken Decker, Naren Salem, Mark Proegler, Tom Kajander, Eldon Thomas, UH student volunteers, Arinn Bogarty, Nicola Polk, Farran Manuel, Erica Berrocal, David Meketon, Stephen Klineberg, Kenneth Brantley II, HISD Research and Accountability, and all those who helped make this research possible.