By 2040, will high school graduates be required to demonstrate proficiency in sustainability before they're allowed to take home their diplomas? This is a main goal of the National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability, released today by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“When the U.S. Department of Education published its Green Ribbon Schools award which called for all K-12 graduates to be environmentally literate, we received that as a directive for the community to band together and figure out how we will ensure that happens,” Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, said in a press release. “This National Action Plan represents the perspectives of the leading minds and the strongest champions of EfS for the first time together with one voice committing to a series of actions that will ensure that every student graduating from a U.S. K-12 school will be environmentally literate by the year 2040.”

The plan focuses on integrating Education for Sustainability (EfS) in the U.S. education system, in both curriculum via a change in pedagogy and in facilities management. Doing so will require changes in "pre-service and in-service teacher professional development, a targeted research agenda, revised conceptions of student assessment, updated school policies, and inspired leadership," according to the plan, which was written by 15 authors and originated in a June 2013 meeting of stakeholders from 30 education-related organizations that was hosted the Center for Green Schools and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, according to the press release.

The report proposes aligning EfS content with current national standards for core academic disciplines to provide curriculum that prepares students to work both individually and collectively to balance economic, environmental, and social needs. The EfS assessments would test students' knowledge of sustainability as a whole, their ability to engage in "interpersonal, global, and ecological relationships," and their skills in solving complex problems via work that demonstrates innovation and creative application. The assessment tests "could include a combination of mixed-method approaches, open-ended response items, and in-depth performance tasks" that may include "research, experimentation, and evaluation; or they could focus on modeling, design, and problem solving," according to the plan. Interpersonal skills could be assessed through community-based projects that require oral, written, graphic, and multimedia presentation, internships, and workplace mentors. The goal is to have a nationwide assessment model in place in middle and high schools across the country by 2040.

To prepare teachers to adopt this new pedagogy, the plan advocates for the establishment of the U.S. Teacher Education for Sustainable Development Network, a professional organization to support reorienting teacher education so that it addresses sustainability more. Other targets for 2014 include establishing a communication platform for the EfS movement; organizing working groups to study and implement key recommendations; the creation of a funding campaign; and the distribution of models of district and state policies, standards, and content best practices.

Click here to access the full plan.

Image courtesy Flickr user Alberto G/albertogp123 via Creative Commons license.