A Report of The Governor’s Green School Awards Program
Submitted by Kate G. Clavijo, Ed.D.
Preliminary Report Summary
The Governor’s Green School Award Program recognizes and celebrates Maryland schools that use the school site, the community and their curriculum and instruction to prepare students to understand and act on the current and future environmental challenges. Evidence from teacher and principal comments, as well as previous research, has suggested that integrating environmental education into the curriculum has far reaching benefits. This reports investigates the impact of comprehensive environmental education on student learning as measured by the science MSPAP test.
As the data in the following report indicate, the schools that are designated Green Schools have a higher science achievement that schools that are not Green Schools. Furthermore, when Green Schools are compared to non Green Schools with similar students socioeconomic backgrounds (as indicated by Title One status) Green Schools have higher achievement that non Green Schools. Further research is needed to help explain what variables present in Green Schools may be contributing to increase in student learning.
Governor Glendening announced the Governor’s Green Schools Program in 1998. The program was developed by a diverse team of educators representing the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, Office of the Governor, the Maryland Association for Student Councils and the Maryland Departments of Education and Department of Natural Resources. It is administered by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. It recognizes elementary, middle and high schools that:
Seventy-Two schools, representing 18 counties have been recognized as Green Schools. The majority of Green Schools are located in Central Maryland, with the highest concentration found in Baltimore County (n= 13), followed by Harford County (n = 7). Sixty-five of the Green Schools are public schools. Table 1 provides additional demographic and academic information of the Green Schools.
Table 1 - Profile of Green Schools and Non Green Schools in Maryland
Note: The total number of Green Schools in Maryland is 72. The total number of public Maryland Green Schools was 65, representing 90% of the total Green Schools.
Overview of Study
This study examined the relationship between the comprehensive environmental education found in Green Schools and student science achievement. Even with positive results, one could not infer that the complex goal of increasing science achievement can be solved by any one approach. In Addition, it is presumed that the MSPAP science subtest reflects the academic performance of the students and that there is a connection between the results reported for the school district and the students’ learning in science.
Title One, is part of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It provides supplemental financial assistance to public schools to improve the teaching and learning of children who are at risk of not meeting challenging academic standards and who reside in areas with high concentrations of children from low-income families.
MSPAP stands for the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. The MSPAP is a statewide testing program used to improve instruction in Maryland public schools. Teachers, principals, and other members of the school community to determine how well schools are educating students use results from the tests. It consists of criterion-referenced performance tests in reading, mathematics, writing, language usage, science, and social studies for students in grades 3, 5, and 8. The tests are based on learning outcomes developed by Maryland educators, and approved by the State Board of Education in 1990, that specify what students should know and be able to do as a result of their educational experiences. In each content area, MSPAP results are reported through five proficiency levels, with level 1 being the most proficient. Proposed performance standards for schools and local systems to meet:
The data for this study was collected from the MSDE website. This data exists in a school district computer notebook file that includes extensive data on the school level for all Maryland schools. A data file containing the school identification number, % participation in free and reduced lunch, Title One status, attendance rates, and 2001 science MSPAP sub-test score was complied. All data was imported into a Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) data file. Data analysis included independent samples t-tests.
Is there a significant difference between Green Schools and Non Green School student’s performance on MSPAP? Statistical analysis of student scores on the science portion of MSPAP across three grade levels indicated the average percentage of students performing in the excellent category is higher in Green Schools than in Non Green Schools. The greatest differences occur in grade five, in which the average percentage of students with an excellent score is 8.1% higher in Green Schools than in Non Green Schools. Additional information is included in Table 2. These results indicate the Governor’s Green School Award Program may impact the academic performance of students.
Table 2 - Comparison Between Green Schools and Non Green Schools: Percentage of Students with an Excellent Score in the Science MSPAP Test
Note. All grade levels were found to be statistically significant at p< .05 by the independent sample t-test
Is there a difference between Green Schools and Non Greens Schools with similar Title One status on the science portion of MSPAP? It is widely accepted that the greatest factor to contribute to student academic achievement is the student’s socioeconomic background. The above results do not control for the student socioeconomic level. This analysis compared Green Schools with no Title One status (middle to high socioeconomic schools) with Non Green Schools with no Title One status. The results indicate that school averages of students scoring excellent on the science portion of MSPAP are significantly higher in Green Schools than in Non Green Schools. Again, the greatest differences occur in grade five in which the average percentage of students with an excellent score is 8.7% higher in Green Schools than in Non Green Schools with non Title One status. Additional information is included in Table 3.
Table 3 - Comparison Between Green Schools and Non Green Schools with Equivalent SES Status: Percentage of Students with an Excellent Score in the Science MSPAP Test
Note. All grade levels were found to be statistically significant at p< .05 by the independent sample t-test.Summary
Based on the analysis in this report, the following general statement can be made: students from Green Schools have significantly higher percentages of students scoring excellent in the MSPAP science test than schools that are not Green Schools. This study supports previous research (Lieberman & Hoody, 1989, 2000 & NEETF, 2000) that reported students scored better on standardized tests and increased enthusiasm for learning after their schools implemented environmental education across the curriculum. Socioeconomic background is just one of many variables that is known to impact student achievement. Further research is needed to build a statistical model that controls for other student, school and teacher characteristics.