Disappointing news for Texas climate education

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The Texas state board of education voted on December 1, 2021, to adopt revised state science standards for kindergarten through the eighth grade that include climate change at the eighth-grade level — but not as accurately and thoroughly as was hoped. The revised standards are not expected to be implemented until the 2024-2025 school year.

Although the revised standards recognize that climate is influenced by greenhouse gas emissions, they fail to convey forthrightly the fact that human activity is definitely responsible for recent climate change, owing to the board's insistence on including the word "can" and excluding the phrase "over the last 150 years" in the relevant contexts. A proposed requirement that students learn about efforts to mitigate climate change, including by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, was previously removed at the suggestion of board member Will Hickman, a lawyer employed by Shell Oil.

Earlier in 2021 and in 2020, the board agreed to slight improvements in the treatment of climate change in the state science standards at the high school level for both required and elective courses, as NCSE previously reported. But there was a lot of room for improvement. In "Making the Grade?" — a 2020 study from NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund — Texas was one of only six states to receive the grade of F for the treatment of climate change in its state science standards. In November 2021, dozens of Texas climate scientists called (PDF) for improvements to the K-8 standards.

Reacting to the board's vote on the K-8 standards, Val Benavidez of the Texas Freedom Network commented, "The progress we made on getting the state board to ensure that Texas schools teach students the full truth about climate change has been important, but that progress is uneven, not nearly enough and largely ignores the urgency of the matter."

Glenn Branch
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Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.