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: