WHS Teacher Accepted to the Democracy and Capitalism Teacher Institute

WHS Teacher Accepted to the Democracy and Capitalism Teacher Institute


The Weston High School Social Studies Department is proud to announce veteran teacher Sean Smith has been selected for the highly competitive and fully-funded Democracy and Capitalism Teachers Institute hosted at the University of Virginia’s Miller Institute. 

This Institute brings together 20 skilled high school social studies, civics, and economics educators from across the country “to deepen their understanding of the foundations, current state, and future of democracy and capitalism.” The Institute focus is on three core goals

  1. Help teachers define and understand the core elements of free markets and free societies
  2. Explore methods to convey democracy and capitalism in classroom settings
  3. Equip teachers to understand how “hot button topics” relate to democracy and capitalism

Six years ago, the WHS Social Studies Department transitioned from a traditional one semester “Introduction to Economics” course to the dual enrollment SUPA (Syracuse University Project Advance) ECN 203: Economic Ideas & Issues course. During the school year 2021 – 22, Weston High School also added a second SUPA dual enrollment course –  ECN 305: The Economics of Personal Finance. Mr. Smith has led the department in this expansion. 

Dual Enrollment courses allow for students to take a course for both high school and college credit. Dual Enrollment credit is similar to AP college credit, except college transfer credit isn’t based on an AP exam score. Students who elect to take the course for college credit will receive a letter grade on an official Syracuse University transcript. (Much like AP college credit, acceptance of the SUPA college credits varies from university to university.) Both SUPA courses provide for 3 college credits each. WHS students who have taken both courses potentially start college with 6 college credits, in addition to AP college credits.

Mr. Smith’s selection as one of twenty participants in the Democracy and Capitalism Teachers Institute was based on his teaching Weston High School’s two SUPA Economics courses, previous participation in numerous economics institutes, as well as experience teaching AP United States History. Weston High School is one of three Massachusetts high schools that currently offers SUPA dual enrollment economics courses. Participation in the Democracy and Capitalism Teachers Institute will result in future opportunities for both Weston High School students and Mr. Smith. 

In 2008, Utah became the first state to mandate personal finance as a high school graduatIon requirement. By 2019, the number of states had grown to six. Currently, 25 states require Personal Finance as a graduation requirement.  The Boston Globe published an article last month (March 2024) entitled “Make personal finance course a high school graduation requirement – Why wait to teach youth personal finance? We shouldn’t.” One of the arguments of the article is that “you’d be surprised to learn that Massachusetts, for all its educational exceptionalism (it) is not one of the 25 states that guarantee a standalone half-credit course in financial literacy for high school students before graduation or are in the process of implementing such a policy”. 

In the future, Massachusetts will very likely require personal finance as a graduation requirement. When that requirement is mandated, Weston High School will be immediately ready to implement the mandate and will potentially serve as a model for other districts.

Mr. Smith also received notification this week that he was accepted into Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy program.