An immodest proposal for improving high school science and the science and engineering pipeline in Florida

Recent improvements in Advanced Placement science courses offer Florida’s high schools the opportunity to improve the preparation of their students for careers in science, engineering and other STEM fields and to assume a position of national leadership in the AP science program.

The two new developments that offer this opportunity are:

  • Florida’s schools are embracing AP Environmental Science as a means of involving a broad spectrum of students in AP science; and,
  • In 2014-2015, the College Board is introducing a new physics course, AP Physics 1, that is intended to be a first high school physics course, replacing standard and honors physics courses.  AP Physics 1 (and AP Physics 2, a new second-year course) are built around decades of research about how students learn physics.

With these developments, Florida should recommend this new high school science sequence starting in the 2014-2015 school year:

9th grade:  Biology 1 or Honors Biology 1

10th grade:  Chemistry 1 or Honors Chemistry 1

11th grade:  AP Physics 1

12th grade:  AP Environmental Science and one of the following:  AP Biology, AP Chemistry or AP Physics 2

If all Florida high schools adopted this sequence, the number of AP science credits earned by the state’s students would increase by a factor of 2.5.  The rate at which Florida’s students earn AP science credits (science credits for every 1000 students) would pass Massachusetts, the present national leader.

new sequence

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