Hard on the heels of the release of FDOE Bureau Chief Todd Clark’s statement yesterday that Florida is “pretty much last in the nation for science”, Assistant Deputy Commissioner Kris Ellington said in an article published today on the Orlando Sentinel blog School Zone that the regulations for the Race to the Top competition will not allow that money to pay for the development and implementation of end-of-course tests in chemistry, physics and Earth/space science. Only a week ago, Commissioner Smith had announced that these tests would be included in the state’s Race to the Top application.
Ellington concluded that tests in these areas will not be developed, and the FDOE will once again push for legislation that would replace the 11th grade Science FCAT – a comprehensive but deeply flawed test – with a single biology end-of-course test as a requirement for high school graduation. Such a bill was defeated in the legislature last spring, in part because of a blizzard of opposition from Florida’s science professors.
The end of course tests in chemistry, physics and Earth/space science are necessary to insure the uniform quality of these courses across high schools and to prevent school districts from further deemphasizing these subjects in their high schools. Florida is already low in the rate of high school graduates taking physics (16%, about half the national rate). Preliminary results from the American Institute of Physics quadrennial survey of high school physics teachers reveals that the fraction of high schools in Florida that do not offer physics is about twice the national rate.
According to Leslie Postal, end of course tests would cost about $1.5 million per year to develop and implement.