"Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action" (PDF) is a report synthesizing the insights of 110 leading thinkers on how to educate and motivate the American public on the subject of global warming. Background on the report here. I’ll be posting a series of excerpts (citations have been removed; see original report). If you’d like to be involved in implementing the report’s recommendations, or learn more, visit the Yale Project on Climate Change website.
Why don’t elementary and high-school educators do a better job teaching about climate change? Find out below!
Educators’ Incentives: Teach to the Test
Teachers are increasingly obligated to concentrate their instruction on content that is covered by high-stakes exit exams as a result of the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). After an initial focus on mathematics and reading testing, which some argue has had the effect of de-emphasizing science teaching across the country, the NCLB law will require state testing on science starting in the fall of 2007. State preparation for this new accountability on science education provides a valuable window of opportunity for promoting the incorporation of climate change content.
Until this happens, it is unlikely that most teachers will divert classroom time to the teaching of climate change. Making it part of the standards-based curriculum rather than an optional topic will also mitigate the disincentive teachers face when it comes to teaching controversial topics that might provoke a parental backlash.
At present, state science standards address earth sciences but rarely blend in climate change. In some states, climate change receives parenthetical mention, but to ensure significant student exposure and understanding it needs to be woven in as a significant content or subject area. Conference Recommendation #28 could prove especially important in favorably modifying the key incentives by incorporating climate change into state science standards, and by calling for the design of the climate change curriculum and the training of teachers needed to fulfill those standards.