Recent Progress: Increase

In 2022, local education agencies (LEAs)—37% of the total—responded to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool (ELIT) that measures the degree of environmental literacy preparedness among school districts across the watershed:

  • 17% of respondents self-identified as “well-prepared” to put a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy in place.

  • 56% of respondents self-identified as “somewhat prepared” to put a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy in place.

  • 27% of respondents self-identified as “not prepared” to put a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy in place.

Outlook: On Course

The Environmental Literacy Planning Outcome’s outlook is on course. The 2022 ELIT shows that the majority of LEAs are somewhat prepared to implement high-quality environmental education, but preparedness varies between states. The state with the largest percentage of well-prepared districts is Maryland, with some others coming from Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Delaware had the highest rate of responding districts that were unprepared. Low response rates in Pennsylvania and West Virginia limit generalizability of state patterns.

After increases in well-prepared districts through three surveys, 2022 saw the first decline in this percentage. However, the proportion of unprepared districts stayed stable. Among only districts for which there are both 2019 and 2022 reports, the percentage of well-prepared districts fell by 3%, accompanied by a 4% decrease in unprepared districts. Coupled together, this reflects a 7% increase in somewhat prepared districts.

Overall, these trends suggest that some districts are in decline while others are improving. In the analysis of all reporting LEAs, there was not a change in the proportion of unprepared districts, which suggests that the aggregate impact of these years (which spanned the COVID-19 pandemic) decreased preparedness for some well-prepared districts but did not tend to push districts to become unprepared to implement environmental education.

While about 63% of the total local education agencies did not respond to the ELIT, those districts that did respond represent 67% of public elementary, middle and high school students that reside inside the region. The District of Columbia (home to one school district serving 44,000 students) saw an overall 100% response rate. Maryland (home to 24 school districts serving 858,500 students) saw a 92% response rate. Delaware (home to 16 school districts serving 112,000 students) saw an 81% response rate. Virginia (home to 137 school districts serving 1.2 million students) saw a 69% response rate. Pennsylvania (home to 499 school districts serving 1.5 million students) saw a 24% response rate. West Virginia (home to eight school districts serving 39,800 students in the watershed) saw a 37% response rate. The full 2022 ELIT survey results are available for download.

Local education agencies and state departments of education play critical roles in supporting, developing and implementing in-school environmental literacy programs. The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Education Workgroup connects natural resource agencies, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, colleges and scientific and professional experts to help education agencies develop and deliver programs that impact environmental instruction in the classroom and the field. A concerted effort toward environmental literacy and education will form the foundation of an informed and active population that can understand and respond to complex environmental problems.

Learn About Factors Influencing Progress

Management Strategy

To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:

  • Supporting school districts in their efforts to incorporate locally appropriate environmental practices, content and learning opportunities into their operations and curricula.

  • Using data and information to strategically and equitably direct resources toward district-level environmental literacy planning and implementation.

  • Ensuring state and regional understanding of our environmental literacy progress, gaps and opportunities.

Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through the Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool (ELIT).

As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in May of 2020.

Download Management Strategy (.pdf)

Logic & Action Plan

Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.


  • Offering trainings and technical assistance focused on using the school district toolkit, state-developed environmental literacy plan templates and standards frameworks to create a continuum of environmental literacy opportunities for students.

  • Providing technical and financial assistance to support school districts with the integration and implementation of MWEEs and sustainability efforts into appropriate grade-level curriculum.

  • Increasing opportunities for school districts and their partners to connect on school district-level environmental literacy planning including network development and sustainability.

  • Using the Regional Outdoor Learning network and associated state networks to increase collaboration, share best practices and refine and advance shared priorities, including promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and justice principles with partner organizations.

  • Regularly convening state and regional environmental literacy partners around key issues and evidence-based best practices through the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Literacy Network, the Bay Program Education Workgroup and the Workforce Action Team.

  • Working with school districts every two years to collect data and information through the Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool (ELIT).

  • Creating reports, data visualizations and progress indicators with information collected through ELIT and elsewhere to inform policy and resource allocation decisions.

  • Encouraged the development of local networks that include school district(s), environmental education providers, and local community groups to provide in-school and out-of-school opportunities to foster youth engagement.

Recently Completed


  • Used state working groups, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Education Workgroup and the Principals’ Staff Committee to convene partners and high-level leaders around key issues of environmental literacy.


  • Worked with regional and national organizations and funders to raise the visibility of and funding toward our environmental literacy efforts.

Learn About Logic & Action Plan

Participating Partners

The Fostering Stewardship Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome.

Participating partners include:

  • State of Delaware

  • State of Maryland

  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

  • Commonwealth of Virginia

  • District of Columbia

  • Chesapeake Bay Commission

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • National Park Service

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  • U.S. Forest Service

  • U.S. Geological Survey

  • Delaware Association for Environmental Education

  • Maryland Association for Environmental Education

  • Pennsylvania Association for Environmental Education

  • Virginia Association for Environmental Education

  • Cacapon Institute

  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation

  • Experience Learning

  • Stroud Water Research Center