Recent Progress: Increase
In 2019, local education agencies—55% of the total (when combined with a small subset of 2017 data)—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:
- 27% of respondents self-identified as “well-prepared” to put a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy in place.
- 52% of respondents self-identified as “somewhat prepared” to put a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy in place.
- 22% of respondents self-identified as “not prepared” to put a comprehensive and systemic approach to environmental literacy in place.
It is uncertain if the Environmental Literacy Planning Outcome will be met. It is the Education Workgroup’s understanding that during the COVID-19 pandemic many of the structures that support environmental literacy generally stayed intact, including maintaining state working groups and the return to operations for most environmental education providers. However, at the district and school building level many programs were halted or disrupted. This was uneven across districts. The hope is that school districts continued to focus on planning while schools were not in session, but it is very likely that they had to shift their priorities due to the pandemic response and recovery.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been continued positive shifts in local education agencies’ level of preparedness, primarily with an increase in the proportion of local education agencies within the watershed that scored as “well prepared” (22% in 2017 to 27% in 2019). Moreover, the data from across three years of surveying local education agencies indicate a steady increase, of about 3-4% each period, of the proportion of well-prepared districts aggregated across responding districts in the watershed. Further, when looking only at data from districts for which there is both 2017 and 2019 reports, 23% of local education agencies in the watershed moved to a higher category of preparedness.
The 2019 reported data for Pennsylvania and Virginia include a small subset of data that was gathered in the 2017 survey period. The exact same survey tool was used in the 2019 survey and data from 2017 was only carried forward if a district did not respond to the 2019 survey. Delaware did not participate in the 2019 survey and the data reflects their 2017 responses. New York does not currently collect ELIT data. The full 2019 ELIT survey results are available for download.
Between 2017 and 2019, there have been continued positive shifts in local education agencies’ level of preparedness, primarily with an increase in the proportion of local education agencies within the watershed that scored as “well prepared” (22% in 2017 to 27% in 2019). Moreover, the data from across three years of surveying local education agencies indicate a steady increase, of about 3-4% each period, of the proportion of well-prepared districts aggregated across responding districts in the watershed. Further, when looking only at data from districts for which there is both 2017 and 2019 reports, 23% of local education agencies in the watershed moved to a higher category of preparedness.
While 147 local education agencies in the Chesapeake Bay watershed—or 45% of the total—did not respond to the ELIT, those districts that did respond represent 63% of the public elementary, middle and high school students that reside inside the watershed. Maryland (home to 24 school districts in the watershed) and the District of Columbia (home to one school district in the watershed) saw 100% response rates. Virginia (home to 94 school districts in the watershed) saw an 81% response rate. Delaware (home to 16 school districts in the watershed) saw a 44% response rate. Pennsylvania (home to 499 school districts in the watershed) saw a 29% response rate. West Virginia (home to 55 school districts in the watershed) saw a 7% response rate.
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 citizenry that can understand and respond to complex environmental problems.
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; and
- 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 2022. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in May 2024.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.
Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:
- In 2016, the Education Workgroup hosted the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Literacy Leadership Summit, which brought environmental education experts, cabinet-level state government representatives and other decision-makers together to explore how states can help local education agencies create and sustain high-quality environmental literacy programming. In 2017, the Education Workgroup convened two additional summits. The first (held in April) explored the benefits of sustainable schools, the cultivation and support of environmental literacy programs and the ways state, federal and local education agencies can work together to enrich student educational experiences. The second (held in November) established a cadre of Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) ambassadors to advocate for and support the development of state and local environmental literacy programs.
- In 2017, the Education Workgroup established indicators of environmental literacy in order to assess progress toward environmental literacy goals.
- In 2017, the Education Workgroup distributed the second Environmental Literacy Indicator Tool (ELIT) survey and is analyzing related data.
- In 2017, the Education Workgroup published An Educator’s Guide to the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience. This easy-to-use manual for constructing high-quality educational experiences for all students brings consistency and quality to the work done under the Environmental Literacy Planning, Student and Sustainable School outcomes. As jurisdictions continue to implement improved and more systemic MWEEs, they will use and promote this so-called MWEE Guide with teachers and non-formal educators and strengthen outdoor learning for students throughout the region. This resource will help create young citizens who understand and respect our natural world.
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. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Forest Service
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Cacapon Institute
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Chesapeake Bay Trust
- Experience Learning
- Stroud Water Research Center