AP Report to the Nation: A cloud for Florida’s silver lining

The headline on tomorrow morning’s Orlando Sentinel story on the release of the 2011 AP Report to the Nation reads, “Florida ranks 6th in students passing AP exam”.

Leave it to Bridge to Tomorrow to find the cloud for the Florida AP silver lining.  Here it is:

If we divide the number of Florida students who passed an AP calculus exam (either AB or BC) and divide by the number of 2011 high school grads, we get 6.2%.  That is not quite the percentage of Florida high school grads with AP Calculus credit – there were some students in 11th grade and earlier who passed a calculus exam, and some of the younger students who passed AB this year will pass BC next year.  Nevertheless, the number of high school grads gives a good normalization for comparing with other states and the nation.

The corresponding national number – students who passed either an AB or BC calculus exam divided by the number of high school grads – is 6.7%.  So Florida is below the national rate.  In Massachusetts, the equivalent number is 11.7%.  So Florida is far behind the leading states.

The numbers for AP Physics exams tell essentially the same story.  If we sum the number of Florida students who passed the AP Physics B and AP Physics C Mechanics exams and divide by the number of high school grads, we get 2.1%.  (We leave out the AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism passers because every one of them took the Physics C Mechanics test on the same day)  The corresponding national rate is 2.2%, and the Massachusetts rate is 4.7%.

So in the subjects that matter most for future physical scientists and engineers, Florida is behind the national average and far behind the leading states.

In the new economy, average isn’t good enough.  Florida must aim to catch up to Massachusetts, and there is a lot of catching up to do.

(State summary reports here)

Update (Thursday morning):  I just had to note a bit from a story in the Miami Herald regarding the AP program in Miami-Dade County:

“When you come to this country, you obviously want the best level of education for your children,” said parent Milagros Soto, whose ninth-grade son, Juan Diego Yanez, is taking AP Spanish. “It’s a proud feeling knowing that the school is pushing its students to reach for the best.”

I was glad to learn that AP Spanish is such a hit in Miami-Dade County.

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