Like Senator Passidomo, I’m worried about the shortage of K-12 computer science teachers. I’m also worried about the shortages of teachers of Spanish, science, math, English…

Kathleen Passidomo is worried about the shortage of K-12 computer science teachers in Florida.  Passidomo is also chair of the Florida Senate’s PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.  So when she decided to write a bill addressing the shortage of computer science teachers, the Senate’s Education Committee was thrilled to agree with her and send the bill forward.  Jeff Solochek’s account of the committee meeting for the Tampa Bay Times is here.

Like Senator Passidomo, I am concerned about the shortage of K-12 computer science teachers.  I am also worried about the shortage of Spanish teachers.  According to the 2017-18 Critical Teacher Shortage Areas document approved by the State Board of Education, there were an estimated 74 vacancies for Spanish teachers in Florida in 2016-17.  The document compared this number to the number of graduates of Florida’s teacher preparation programs in 2014-15.  For Spanish, the number of graduates was six.  That’s right – 6.

In 2016-17, there were an estimated 220 vacancies for teachers with certification in General Science, but teacher preparation programs only graduated 27 in 2014-15.  For those certified in the physical sciences – chemistry and physics – there were 214 vacancies but only 37 graduates.

Then there were the subjects that everybody would consider basic.  There were 485 vacancies for English teachers compared to 192 teacher prep graduates.

And 447 vacancies for math teachers compared to 196 graduates.

The SBOE report documented a surplus of music teachers, however.

All of this is illustrated in the plot below, which shows the surplus or shortfall (the difference between the number of teacher prep graduates and the number of vacancies) as a percentage of the number of vacancies for fifteen subject areas.

I wish Senator Passidomo would take a look at it.

But here’s another angle on this situation that’s worth thinking about:  Perhaps the state’s teacher preparation programs have made themselves irrelevant in some key subjects – Spanish, math, science and English.  Florida is already one of the nation’s leaders in district-based alternative certification programs.  Maybe some districts are ready to take the next step – ignoring teacher preparation programs altogether.  After all, the Chair of the Bay County School Board spent a few days visiting studio physics classes at FSU last fall.  Maybe that’s just the beginning of a trend.

Stay tuned.

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Florida’s study on whether its high school level FSA exams could be replaced by SAT/ACT was rigged: An Orlando Sentinel op-ed

My op-ed on replacing Florida’s high school-level FSA exams on math and English language arts with the ACT or SAT was published in the Orlando Sentinel this morning.

The op-ed addresses a study of the topic – sort of – released by the Florida Department of Education recently.  The study was authorized by language in last year’s enormous HB 7069 education reform bill.  The catch was that it referenced a bit of federal law that deals with allowing local school districts to use different exams than the state – so the study focused on that.  That bit of the United States Code was 20 U.S.C. s. 6311 (b) (2) (H), which you can read here.  The study did not look at all at the possibility of completely replacing the high school-level FSA exams in math and English language arts with the SAT or ACT.  I, like apparently lots of other folks, missed that in the rush to pass HB 7069.

In the op-ed, I argue that seven of the fifteen states for which ESSA plans have been approved are being allowed to use the SAT or ACT for federal accountability purposes.  So why not Florida?

Education Week took a look at the Florida study this week.

Education Week is also tracking which states have had their ESSA plans approved.

Here are links to the ESSA plans for the approved states:  Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee.

Perhaps one of my two regular readers noticed that there is no discussion of science in the op-ed.  The 2009 decision to make the Biology 1 end-of-course exam Florida’s high school science exam for federal accountability purposes continues to stick in my craw.  During the 2007-2008 science standards process, standards were written for high school in chemistry, physics, and Earth/space science.  Limiting the high school science test to biology sends a less-than-optimum message to students, parents, teachers and administrators about the importance of science in a high school education.  But there is little interest in addressing that issue.

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The Northwest Florida 35: Leon County’s Chiles High School leads the region in preparing students for college STEM majors

Leon County’s Chiles High School does the best job preparing its students for college majors in STEM fields among 35 Northwest Florida public high schools with 100 or more 12th graders, according to an index calculated using enrollment rates for chemistry, physics and calculus.

The high schools analyzed –  the Northwest Florida 35 – are located in a geographic region that begins at Escambia County and extends eastward to Leon and Wakulla Counties.  The region includes public high schools that range from very small (having many fewer than 100 12th graders) to fairly large (500 12th graders).  For the present analysis only schools with 100 or more 12th graders were examined.

The Fall 2017 course enrollment data were supplied by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE).  The department said that the enrollment data were still preliminary and subject to revision.  The school membership data were taken from the FLDOE’s EdStats system and are final.  Dual enrollment was not included in the present analysis because the FLDOE does not include those courses in its course enrollment reports.

The STEM Career Prep Index shown below is the sum of enrollment rates for chemistry, physics and calculus.  The index calculated for the statewide ranking published previously here included the precalculus enrollment rate as well.  However, several of the high schools in the present analysis deliver precalculus exclusively via dual enrollment and therefore score zero for precalculus enrollment rate.  Calculating the index without precalculus seemed to provide the most meaningful comparison of the high schools in the Northwest Florida 35.

Chiles’ edge in the index rankings came from its physics enrollment rate, where it leads second place Godby (Leon County) by ten points.  It is notable that while Chiles has a very affluent student body, Godby had a free and reduced-price eligibility rate of 92% in the fall of 2016, which is the most recent semester for which that statistic is available.

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Florida STEM Career Prep Rankings for the 2017-18 school year: Seminole and Brevard Counties ranked first and second again

For the 2017-18 school year, Seminole and Brevard Counties are again ranked first and second in Florida for how well they prepare students for college majors in STEM fields.

The STEM Career Prep Index accounts for the rates at which high school students enroll in chemistry, physics, precalculus and calculus courses.  For each subject, an enrollment rate is calculated by dividing the total number of course enrollments for grades 9-12 in a district by the number of 12th graders and multiplying by 100.  The STEM Career Prep Index is the sum of enrollment rates for the four subjects.

The rankings for the STEM Career Prep Index and the enrollment rates for the four subjects are shown in plots at the end of this post.

The enrollment rates were calculated using fall course enrollment figures supplied by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) and fall school membership numbers available on the FLDOE’s EdStats system.  The FLDOE said that the course enrollment numbers are still considered preliminary and subject to revision.  The school membership numbers are final.

Dual enrollment courses are not counted here because FLDOE does not include those courses in its enrollment reports.

The two traditional Florida powerhouses – Brevard and Seminole – separate themselves from the rest of the state by steering large segments of their high school populations into physics classes.  Seminole County high school students enroll in physics classes at nearly twice the rate of the third place district – Leon County.  And Brevard’s enrollment rate in physics is even higher than Seminole’s.

But Seminole County edges ahead of Brevard by enrolling larger numbers of students in higher level math classes – Precalculus and Calculus.

A national study of high school physics enrollment rates performed in the summer of 2015 showed that Florida is in the lower tier of states in that subject.  Among the 31 jurisdictions (30 states plus the District of Columbia) that responded to that survey, the physics enrollment rate was 39 enrollments per 100 12th graders.  Only Brevard and Seminole Counties have physics enrollment rates higher than that national rate; even third place Leon comes in below the national standard.

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Despite a continuing sharp decline at Lincoln High School, Leon County’s physics program stabilizes

After last year’s precipitous drop in high school physics enrollment, Leon County’s physics program stabilized this year despite a continuing sharp decline at Lincoln High School, which was once the district’s best school for science.

According to figures supplied by the Florida Department of Education, Leon County’s district high schools enrolled 750 students in physics classes this fall (fall 2017).  FLDOE says this fall’s numbers are still preliminary and subject to revision.  In the fall of 2015, district-wide physics enrollment stood at 963, but then dropped to only 711 in fall 2016, a 26% drop in a single year.

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Four years ago, in the fall of 2013, only 642 students were enrolled in physics in Leon County’s high schools.  That number shot up to 1,059 in the fall of 2014 – a 65% increase.  That increase was led by a new physics program at Godby High School, which previously had not offered the subject, and massive increases in enrollment at Rickards and Lincoln High Schools.  Leon and Chiles High Schools experienced less spectacular but still large increases in physics enrollments.

Lincoln High School accounted for the bulk of the district’s drop from its fall 2014 peak.  From fall 2014 to fall 2017, physics enrollment at Lincoln dropped 67%.  The school’s decline of 191 students accounted for 62% of the district-wide drop of 309 during that period.  Lincoln had two physics teachers on staff for many years, but recently consolidated to one physics teacher.

Lincoln’s fall 2017 physics enrollment rate of 21 physics enrollments per 100 12th graders is now the district’s lowest by far.  Fall 2017 physics enrollment rates at the district’s other large high schools are 35 at Rickards, 37 at Godby, 41 at Leon and 56 at Chiles.  Chiles, Leon and Lincoln have affluent student populations according to free and reduced-price eligibility rates, while Godby and Rickards have very challenging demographics.

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Florida district high school physics enrollment declines for third consecutive year

New data on Fall 2017 class enrollments supplied by the Florida Department of Education reveal that physics enrollments in Florida’s district high schools continued to decline for a third consecutive year.  This fall, enrollments were 3% lower than a year ago, and they are now 8% lower than they were in Fall 2014.

The FLDOE says the enrollment numbers are preliminary and subject to updating.

The enrollment numbers include traditional district high schools, charter high schools, and district-affiliated virtual schools.  The numbers do not include dual enrollment, which FLDOE no longer reports.

Physics is the gateway high school science course for college majors such as engineering, computer science, chemistry and physics.  College majors in life and health sciences require physics, and students are significantly more likely to perform well in college physics if they take a physics course in high school.

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A survey of state departments of education (plus DC) performed in the summer of 2015 showed that Florida was already in the lower tier of states for physics enrollment rate.

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Much of the decline in total physics enrollment over the last three years came from the sharp downward trend in enrollments in the non-Honors Physics 1 course.   Enrollments in AP Physics 1, which was designed to replace the traditional Honors Physics 1 course, continue to be disappointingly low.

For the 2017-18 school year, the Florida State Board of Education removed “Physical Science”, which includes both chemistry and physics, from the list of Critical Teacher Shortage Areas.

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Do physics majors apply and go to law school? Yes – and they lead the way on the LSAT.

Do physics majors go to law school?  Yes, and they do well on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).

The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) compiles LSAT results for different majors, and occasionally an organization like the American Institute of Physics or US News and World Report will share those results.

Here are the top 10 majors ranked by “Mean Highest LSAT” for students that applied for admission to law school for the 2016-17 academic year.  Three of the top four have the word “physics” in them.

 

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The number of physics majors applying to law school is relatively small – more than 12,000 political science majors applied for entry in the 2016-17 academic year (and their Mean Highest LSAT score was 153.80).

Below is the spreadsheet that I downloaded from LSAC so that you can tinker with it and see how different majors do in the law school admissions process.

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