From my Florida TaxWatch Ideas in Action piece “Ensuring that Florida’s university-bound high school graduates are STEM-ready”:
According to the report Closing the Talent Gap released by the Florida Council of 100 and the Florida Chamber of Commerce in January 2010, our state will need “100,000 more science and technology professionals than we are on track to produce” during the next five years. Of the 50,000 bachelors’ degrees awarded by Florida’s public universities each year, only 8,500 students are in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. The state’s independent colleges and universities add another 1,200 bachelors’ degrees in engineering and information sciences to the total. Because the number of STEM bachelors’ degrees produced each year in Florida is so small compared to the shortfall, it is clear that meeting Florida’s needs for science and technology professionals in the next decade will require a major shift in the culture and priorities of the state’s educational system. Under the New Florida Initiative being pursued by the State University System’s Board of Governors, a substantial investment will be made in building the capacity of the state’s universities to educate STEM professionals.
However, the New Florida investment will be wasted unless Florida’s public high schools dramatically increase the number of students they send to our universities who are both interested in science and engineering careers and well prepared for the rigor of undergraduate programs in those fields. Doing so will require our high schools to recast their missions. The core science subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics must become central to our high schools’ curricula and the preparation of every university-bound graduate for rigorous undergraduate programs in science and engineering fields must become a high priority for each high school. This imperative must be as high a priority as raising graduation rates.