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Standardized Test Demands Hinder Environmental Education

A recent article in the Bay Journal reveals the struggle that environmental education is facing in our public schools.

Today, more teachers are eagerly taking advantage of programs like NOAA's Bay Watershed Education and Training Program and CBF's field trips and Chesapeake Classrooms program to provide students with compelling environmental education opportunities. Unfortunately, their ability to pursue these lessons in the classroom continues to shrink.

“If it’s not tested, it’s often not being taught,” says CBF Vice President of Education Don Baugh. “We see everything from teachers who have almost abandoned the environmental science program they’ve been teaching for 30 years to new teachers who just aren’t able to get support.”


Because environmental education faces stiff competition from subjects related directly to standardized tests – namely math and reading. Many school systems spend a minimum amount of elementary school class time on science in order to expand their emphasis on these two areas. And even though the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act will require testing in science at the elementary and high school levels by the end of the 2007-2008 school year, environmental science remains all but ignored.

What kind of science will students be required to learn for these tests? Most elementary schools focus on biology and earth/space systems science. Most high school science programs also emphasize these two curricula, along with physics or chemistry; biology most often being required for graduation. Environmental science might be offered as an elective.

Of these four subject areas, which is most likely to have a long-term impact for virtually every student as he or she becomes a responsible, contributing member of society? Our children face a future where resource management and environmental sustainability may be inextricably linked to global economics. Yet, our current educational system is not providing the foundation they will need to deal with the crucial environmental challenges facing them.

Should environmental science play a larger role in our children's education? Let us know what you think.


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