Disconnect at Florida’s elite high schools: Physics left behind at IB programs

The Florida Legislature has just passed a new law to focus the attention of the state’s high schools on preparing students for careers in the new innovation economy.  The Florida Council of 100 and the state’s Chamber of Commerce released Closing the Talent Gap, a call to arms for a renewed effort to educate a new army of scientists and engineers.

One might think that Florida’s elite high school programs, its International Baccalaureate programs, would lead the way, but there’s a problem:  Nearly half of the IB programs at the state’s public high schools do not offer IB physics.

According to the web site of the World International Baccalaureate Organization, there are 54 IB programs at public high schools in Florida.  In the most recent school year for which IB Examination results are available, 2008-2009, students from only 30 of the programs – 56% – took one of the two IB Physics exams, known by the names “Standard Level” (SL) and “Higher Level” (HL).  Students at only 15 schools – 28% – took the HL exam.

Among the more depressing findings:

Leon County’s Rickards High School, which educates many of the children of FSU’s faculty and officials of the state’s government, does not offer an IB physics course.

In Miami-Dade County, only one of the district’s four IB schools had students take a physics exam, and the one that did – Ferguson Senior – had only Standard Level exam takers.

The IB program at Gulf High, one of the two IB schools in Pasco County, doesn’t offer physics at either level.  Pasco is home to both Florida House Education Council Chair Will Weatherford and House PreK-12 Policy Committee Chair John Legg.

Some of the schools that house the IB programs offer Advanced Placement Physics that IB students can take as an elective.  However, there is little incentive for IB students to do so since they must pass a minimum number of IB exams to earn an IB diploma.

Nine private schools in the state also house IB programs.  Of these, only three had students take an IB physics exam.  Only one, Carrollwood Day School in Tampa, had students take the “Higher Level” exam.

A full listing of the state’s IB schools and the IB physics exams they did (or did not) offer is given here:

ib physics page

This entry was posted in Florida Legislature, High School Graduation Standards and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Disconnect at Florida’s elite high schools: Physics left behind at IB programs

  1. Doug Stobbs says:

    I’d love to have our school offer an IB Physics HL or SL course. However, finding a qualified physics teacher to effectively instruct students at this level is nearly impossible. I don’t have an answer to this dilemma, however, something needs to be done.

    • Nicholas Wild says:

      Hello there,

      I am an I.B Physics teacher who is currently working in Singapore. I have previously worked in New Zealand, Qatar and the UK. I.B Physics has a larger breadth than A.P, A Levels etc but it is not necessarily more difficult and it allows the student to explore topics of individual interest. Yes we are a rare breed of teacher.If you are a student who requires some I.B Physics resources then send me an email, I would be glad to help. nicholaswild@yahoo.co.uk . Schools – get in touch I would love to come to Florida one day!

      Study Hard

      Nicholas Wild

  2. Pingback: No-physics IB schools from Florida make Newsweek Top 100 high schools list « Bridge to Tomorrow

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  4. Anna says:

    I’m an IB SL physics student and I’m taking the exam in 2 days. I’ve been passing all year, but there is no way in hell I’ll get a 6, let alone a 7. And I don’t even have it bad: I’m good at maths, there are some kids in my class looking at 2s.

    IB physics is incredibly difficult. It is of a much, much higher standard than physics courses in other high school diplomas/education certificates. It goes into so much depth that some of the material is university level stuff.

    You’d need an extremely qualified physics teacher to teach an IB physics class. They’d probably need to be a physicist themselves… My teacher basically throws practise exams at us, and whines about how bad the textbook is. I really don’t blame him, it’s a pretty poorly structured science course.

    • Nicholas Wild says:

      Hello Anna,

      I can understand why the teacher whines about the text book (I am an I.B Physics teacher and at times I do the same)! The course has also changed in recent years and many texts are now out of date. This post is too late for you (as you have already completed the exam) but I have comprehensive power point presentations that I don’t mind sharing. I gained these from attending several I.B training workshops. In my experience the best way for teachers to gain comprehensive resources is to attend these workshops. Remember a Level 7 is approx 70% and above – I am sure that you will get there 🙂

      Nicholas Wild

      • Lost in IB Physics says:

        Oh Nicholas, any help you could provide would be most deeply appreciated!
        We have a new IB Physics teacher, and our kids are completely lost. How can I contact you to access your power points?
        Further, these kids are getting 2s and 3s on their exams, and the teacher is telling them it’s fine. How is this possible?
        Thank you!

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  6. Pingback: Memphis school district halts physics classes a month after the beginning of the semester due to enrollment and budget issues « Bridge to Tomorrow

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