Maryland public high school students will need to prove they are "environmentally literate" before receiving a diploma under a new policy adopted last week by the state board of education.
Gov. Martin O'Malley said the state regulation is the first of its kind in the country and called it "a defining moment for education in Maryland."
Under the new requirement, schools will be expected to incorporate lessons on conservation, smart growth and other environmental topics into core subject coursework.
Districts are responsible for molding the curriculum to meet state standards in environmental literacy and developing ways to assess students' command of the material in order to graduate. District program plans will be submitted for MSDE review every five years, in order to ensure they are meeting state requirements.
The action follows the approval of draft guidelines for an environmental literacy requirement last fall. The language of the draft regulation was reportedly too broad for some who expressed concern that school districts might be able to get by simply by offering existing science and math courses. Last week's vote was meant to clarify how the policy will work and eliminate confusion about whether or not the requirement is an official requirement.
The new requirement -- which will apply to students entering school this fall -- will not require any additional funding, staff or courses, say state education officials.
Forty-eight other states are also eyeing green education mandates, according to the No Child Left Inside Coalition.