The public education system can play a pivotal role in creating an electorate that is well informed of the consensus around climate change and its anthropogenic causes. In particular, more states have education standards that specifically address climate change today than ever before. However, previous research raises concerns about the discretion teachers have in if and how particular types of content are presented. The effectiveness of new state standards and the extent to which such state-level standards are coopted by teacher discretion has received minimal attention. Therefore, using a nationally representative sample of 1500 middle school and high school science teachers, this research examines the effectiveness of such state-level standards and the extent to which teacher ideology and knowledge mediate the relationship between standards and actual use of a consensus-informed approach to teaching climate science. Results show that teachers in states with any type of standards around climate change spend significantly more time on the topic in the classroom. However, teachers in states that have standards that require teachers to present “both sides” of climate change are significantly less likely to use a consensus-informed approach. While teacher characteristics (knowledge and ideology) can weaken their effect, standards continue to be important predictors of the time spent on climate change in the classroom and how content is presented. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of climate science standards.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change
- Atmospheric Science