In response to the lack of formalized environmental education in the United States, 48 states are in the process of developing Environmental Literacy Plans (ELP) through their state environmental education organization (SEEO). The North American Association of Environmental Educators (NAAEE) produced guidelines intended to inform the states writing and development of their ELP. These guidelines provide a framework for the integration of environmental education into current state curricula, propose graduation requirements for environmental literacy, suggest steps for teacher professional development, detail assessment strategies and propose funding sources and policy action steps. Due to large variations in educational systems, policies, and politics on a state-by-state basis, the 48 ELPs are in dramatically different phases of progress.
The purpose of this study was to develop a robust and unique system of analyzing environmental literacy plans in the United States. A criteria-based matrix system was created for to examine the progress of state ELPs through a qualitative system which analyzes the quality of each recommended criterion. The matrix system also accounts for several external factors such as political status in terms of legislative progress and the process transparency in terms of public input. The matrix system is accompanied by rubrics which provide detailed citations of evidence for each of the eight criterion scores a state receives. The unique methodology requires a contextualization of the factors affecting ELP progress; therefore several states are highlighted in the findings to provide contextual evidence behind ELP success or lack thereof. .
The conclusions identify the development of a robust curriculum crosswalk as well as plan advancement on the political stage as strong components of ELP success. This study also shows that political affiliation of the state, as a conservative or liberal state, is not a strong determinant off overall success of the plan. The conclusions of this dissertation are highly relevant due to the passage of new federal legislation which, for the first time, provides funding for opportunities for environmental education in K-12 classrooms in the United States.