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Support: NCLB Stakeholder support letter

 

Dear Members of Congress,

The reauthorization process for the expiring No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) offers a major opportunity to better prepare the next generation of students for the workforce and personal challenges they will face, while simultaneously advancing NCLB’s primary priorities in math, reading, and science.

Two simple changes are needed to NCLB: 1) give schools and school systems more encouragement and flexibility to develop and deliver environmental education programs as part of science, math, and language arts, as well as elsewhere in the curriculum, and 2) authorize enhanced federal environmental education funding for teacher training, development of state standards and assessments, classroom and field education programs, research, and strategic initiatives to help advance the field.

For more than three decades, environmental education has been a steadily growing part of our nation’s elementary and secondary schools.  Thousands of public schools (including over 300 environmental charter and magnet schools) throughout every state in the nation now offer some form of environmental education, involving some 30 million K-12 students and 1.2 million teachers each year.

Unfortunately, NCLB’s high-stakes atmosphere has created an intense focus on reading and math, which, in turn, is influencing many schools to abandon their already modest environmental education programs.  Science teachers are also eliminating aspects of science such as environmental science that do not appear to relate directly to state tests.  Even field trips are being eliminated to save time for more math and reading.

Our nation can no longer afford to treat environmental education as optional.  Only those countries that find ways in the coming decades to prosper within the constraints of nature – climate change and clean energy being only two of the most pressing constraints – will remain competitive and sustainable in the emerging world economy.  Charles Holliday, CEO of Dupont, is not alone in declaring that “an environmentally sustainable business is just good business… A key component of an environmentally sustainable business is a highly educated work force, particularly involving environmental principles.”  
The National Science Foundation agrees, noting that “in the coming decades, the public will more frequently be called upon to understand complex environmental issues, assess risk, evaluate proposed environmental plans and understand how individual decisions affect the environment at local and global scales.  Creating a scientifically informed citizenry requires a concerted, systematic approach to environmental education...”
Environmental education also connects classroom-learning in exciting and engaging ways to the real world.  As a result, when included in the core curricula or used as an integrating theme across the curricula, environmental education demonstrably improves student achievement in science – and in reading, math, and social studies as well.

Yet, nationwide funding available through the National Environmental Education Act (the primary source of federal K-12 funding specified for environmental education) was only $6.6 million in 2006 –  an average of $132,000 for each of the 50 States.

We urge you to seize the opportunity offered by NCLB’s reauthorization to affirm the value and importance of environmental education in meeting the nation’s economic, environmental, social, and security challenges ahead.  By restoring environmental education to the classroom and enhancing our nation’s environmental literacy, we will not only improve student achievement, but we will also better prepare the coming generation for the new workforce requirements and create more responsible citizens and stewards of the environment.      

February 28, 2007

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (Tom Kimmerer, Executive Director)

Association of Nature Center Administrators (Tim Sandsmark, President)

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Steve Olson, Director of Government Affairs)

Campaign for Environmental Literacy (James Elder, Director)

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (Don Baugh, Vice President for Education)

Council on Environmental Education (Josetta Hawthorne, Executive Director)

Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (Bruce Coull, President)

Dupont (Charles O. Holliday, Jr., Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer)

Earth Force (Vince Meldrum, President)

Earth Day Network (Kathleen Rogers, President)

Ecological Society of America (Jason Taylor, Director of Education)

National Association for Interpretation (Tim Merriman, Executive Director)

National Audubon Society (Judy Braus, Vice President for Education)

National Council for Science and the Environment (Peter Saundry, Executive Director)

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (Lori Arguelles, President and CEO)

National Wildlife Federation (Kevin Coyle, Vice President for Education)

North American Association for Environmental Education (Brian Day, Executive Director)

Ocean Project (Bill Mott, Director)

Second Nature (Anthony Cortese, President)