National Environmental Education Advisory Council, (2005). Setting the standard, measuring results, celebrating successes: A report to Congress on the status of environmental education in the United States. Retrieved May 6, 2006 from http://epa.gov/enviroed/pdf/reporttocongress2005.pdf
This report to Congress, mandated under the National Environmental
Education Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-619), describes the status of environmental
education in the United States. The report details the standards established,
the results measured, and the successes achieved since the Act’s passage. The
National Environmental Education Advisory Council, the citizens’ committee
created by the Act, developed this document as part of its mission to assess
the status of environmental education and to report on its effects.
Fifteen Years of Progress
In December 1996, the National Environmental Education Advisory Council submitted its first report to
Congress on environmental education. The report made a number of policy recommendations, including
a call for greater resources and support, more professional development, and better access to quality
programs and information. The report also noted that important audiences were not being reached and
that environmental education needed to become more institutionalized to be a national priority.
The Council finds abundant evidence that every state in the nation has responded to this call for action.
Since the National Environmental Education Act was passed in 1990, the overall quality of environmental
education has improved measurably across the nation. Professional development programs are flourishing,
and high-quality instructional materials (increasingly aligned to state academic standards) are being used
in both formal and nonformal settings. Environmental education – with its emphasis on critical thinking,
interdisciplinary teaching, and learner achievement – is also helping to meet educational reform goals.
Not only has environmental education achieved national prominence in its development as a profession,
but it has also proven to be a viable strategy for enhancing environmental stewardship. The field has
reached a juncture where it is positioned to become an equal partner with enforcement as a strategy for
The Challenge Ahead
The primary challenge ahead is to raise the level of environmental literacy of the American citizenry as
a whole and to ensure the environmental literacy of each successive generation. If the nation can meet
this challenge, individuals will be more capable of analyzing environmental issues and making informed
decisions as consumers, employees, parents, youth, students, and voters.
The Council has developed eight recommendations to chart a course for the years ahead. Implementing
these recommendations will position the profession to set the standard for excellence, measure results,
and celebrate successes. By focusing on these carefully chosen, critical areas of need, environmental
education will more effectively and equitably fulfill its crucial role in society.
Recommendations for Action
Setting the Standard
1. Update the National Environmental Education Act for the 21st century.
2. Broaden the audience and leadership of the environmental education field.
3. Improve the quality, accessibility, and dissemination of environmental education materials and programs.
4. Develop a framework and tools for measuring the effectiveness of environmental education.
5. Support and strengthen long-term research initiatives.
6. Establish an outcome-based grant program to enable states, territories, and tribes to deliver environmental education programs and services.
7. Develop assessment-based professional development programs for formal and nonformal
educators to improve their ability to teach environmental concepts and skills to learners of all ages.
8. Build public understanding of the value of environmental education and increase the number and diversity of talented young people pursuing environmental careers.