Maryland has become the first state in the country to require students to be “environmentally literate” in order to graduate from high school.
The Maryland state board of education voted last Tuesday, June 21, to require that students get a “comprehensive, multi-disciplinary environmental education” before receiving a diploma. Districts will have to develop plans for coursework that meets state standards in environmental literacy and have their plans approved by the state superintendent of schools.
They will also have to develop ways to assess students’ mastery of the material in order to determine if they are eligible for graduation. The requirement will apply to students entering high school in the fall.
Gov. Martin O’Malley issued a statement calling the board’s action “a defining moment for education in Maryland,” while environmental advocates were even more effusive. Don Baugh, head of the No Child Left Inside Coalition promoting federal environmental literacy legislation, called it a “momentous day.”
Environmentalists had initially howled over draft guidelines adopted by the state board last fall, complaining they would let school systems get by without doing anything – essentially claiming they were teaching environmental literacy simply by offering existing math and science courses. But state School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick and board members reassured activists they really meant to strengthen environmental education, and advocates say the final rules seem to make that clear.
The new environmental instruction should not require any additional funding or staff, according to the governor. But by adopting the requirement Maryland may be in better position to receive federal funding for green literacy, under national No Child Left Inside legislation to be reintroduced in Congress. The bill’s chief sponsor is Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat.
I’ve certainly taught in plenty of schools that had a strong environmental education component, and some private schools that made environmental education a graduation requirement.
But this is the first time a state board of education has made green literacy mandatory for its students to graduate. Way to go, Maryland!
Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region via Creative Commons