When the State Board of Education wrote new science standards for Texas public schools 11 years ago, Republican board members dismissed teaching students about climate change as “hooey” and a “political agenda.” Now as the country has become even more vulnerable to powerful storms, massive wildfires and devastating cycles of drought and flooding, the TFN Education Fund and the National Center for Science Education today released a new national report card showing that Texas is among the states failing to teach students the truth about climate change. And all this comes as the state board is rushing forward with a new overhaul of science standards in Texas. Check out our press release here.
NEW REPORT: SCHOOL SCIENCE STANDARDS IN MANY STATES EARN POOR MARKS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia Among the States Receiving an F in National Report Card
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 8, 2020
Even as the growing impact and evidence of human-caused climate change have become overwhelmingly clear, a new report from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund shows many states are doing a very poor job making sure public school students learn the facts about the global crisis they will inherit.
“The alarm bells have been ringing loudly for years, but policymakers in Texas and too many other states just stubbornly refuse to hear them,” said Kathy Miller, president of the TFN Education Fund. “The result is they are failing to help teachers ensure their students learn the information and skills they will need to meet the serious challenge already posed by climate change.”
“The primary way that states guide science education in their public schools is through state science education standards,” explained Ann Reid, NCSE’s executive director. “Climate change is a relative newcomer to American science education, and as a result the treatment of climate change in standards varies in accuracy and completeness from state to state. In some states, regrettably, ideology has been allowed to override science.”
For the report (ClimateGrades.org), a panel of scientists reviewed current science standards in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Based on the reviewers’ evaluations, states received grades based on how well their standards addressed the scientific consensus that climate change is real, serious and caused by human activity, as well as that there are ways to adapt and mitigate its impact.
Twenty states, including a number of the most populous states, received grades no better than a C+. Four, including Florida and Ohio, earned a D and six, including Texas, Pennsylvania and Georgia, an F.
On the other hand, 26 states plus DC earned a B+ or higher grade. Those states include California and New York. The vast majority of them — 21 in all — have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS. The NGSS are the product of a consortium of states working with a number of national science and science education organizations.
Wyoming, Alaska and North Dakota were among the five states receiving an A or A-. That result demonstrates how policymakers even in states in which mining and fossil fuel extraction are key parts of the economy can responsibly address climate change in their science classrooms.
Even so, the report reveals four common problems in many state science standards:
- Promoting the false narrative that climate scientists are still debating whether human-caused climate change is real and serious
- Suggesting the evidence about climate change is not as clear as scientists say it is
- Failing to address climate change at all or doing so only indirectly
- Missing opportunities to inspire hope by helping students learn about ways to adapt and mitigate the impact of climate change
The release of the report comes as Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina are in the process of revising science standards. Climate change has also emerged as a major election issue this year, as wildfires have scorched large swaths of the western United States and a barrage of storms has pummeled coastal regions in recent months.
“Scientists have long warned that climate change would lead to increasingly extreme weather events, and it’s critical that education policymakers in Texas and elsewhere act with the urgency the crisis requires,” Miller said. “This means making instruction on climate change a priority when revising science standards for all grades. Let’s at least help students get the tools they need to solve a critical problem they didn’t have a hand in creating.”
The report is available at ClimateGrades.org.
The National Center for Science Education (ncse.ngo) works to ensure that socially controversial topics in science, including evolution and climate change, are taught accurately, honestly, and confidently.
The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (tfn.org) conducts public policy research on issues involving public education, equality and social justice.