11.5%: The unemployment rate in Florida at the close of 2009, signaling the structural collapse of the go-go growth-and-tourism economy in the state.
45%: The fraction of mortgages in Florida that are “underwater,” with the owners owing more than their properties are worth.
$418: Decrease in per-pupil spending on public K-12 schools in Florida from the 2007-2008 school year to the 2009-2010 school year, even with the federal stimulus money.
$2.6 billion: Anticipated state budget shortfall in the next fiscal year.
49: Florida’s national rank on the science section of the ACT college entrance exam in 2008. This statistic was used by FDOE Bureau Chief Todd Clark to support his argument that “Florida students are pretty much last in the nation in science.”
47: Florida’s national rank on pass rate for Advanced Placement science tests in 2008. Another statistic quoted by Todd Clark to support the above conclusion.
0: Number of African-American students who scored the highest level (5) on the FCAT Science tests statewide in 2008. That’s not 0%. That’s zero students. Not a single African-American student, at any of the three grade levels during which the Science FCAT is administered (5, 8, 11) and anywhere in the state, scored a 5.
16%: The fraction of graduating high school students in Florida who have taken a physics course. This fraction is about half the national rate.
29%: The fraction of American high school graduates in the top quintile (20%) on the SAT and ACT math sections who earned bachelors’ degrees in STEM fields in the 1990’s, according to a Rutgers-Georgetown report.
14%: The fraction of American high school graduates in the top quintile on the SAT and ACT math sections who earned bachelors’ degrees in STEM fields in the 2000’s, according to the same report. This plunge from the 1990’s may signal a cultural change nationally from a technological economy toward a mercantilist economy in which technological innovation is valued less than the devising of complex financial instruments that are designed to conceal looming disaster from unwitting customers. We have now done the experiment. Will we learn the lesson? And what are all those freshly minted Ivy League grads who were planning to be rich investment bankers going to do? Go to law school?
39%: Fraction of Americans that accepted the theory of evolution on the occasion of Darwin’s 150th birthday, according to a Gallup Poll.
24%: Fraction of Americans that attend church weekly who accept the theory of evolution, according to the same Gallup Poll. (Note: I’m in this small group, bucking the crowd as usual.)
$36,000: National average starting salary for a teacher at the secondary level.
$52,000: Average starting salary for a new bachelor’s degree recipient in physics. The $16,000 difference between this number and the previous one provides a clue about why it is so difficult to recruit physics teachers.
1: The number of science subjects that will be tested at the high school level starting in 2012 if Florida Education Commissioner Smith gets his way in the Florida Legislature this spring. That subject will be biology. With chemistry, physics and Earth/space science left out of the high school accountability package, there will not be any legal incentive to maintain or improve the access to and quality of instruction in these areas.