About your State of the State address, Governor Scott: The universities need some help from K-12 to steer more students into the highest-paying careers

Yes, I actually sent this letter to Governor Scott this morning…

Dear Governor Scott:

I appreciate your mention in today’s State of the State Address of the importance of our universities educating students in fields where they can get great jobs.  You may already be aware that the top 10 “Majors That Pay You Back” as listed by payscale.com are in engineering, computer science and physics.  I’m sure you are interested in steering more students into those fields, and the incentive program you are proposing is intended to encourage our universities to do so.

However, the universities cannot accomplish the goal of graduating more students in engineering, computer science and physics on their own.  Student success in these college majors depends strongly on their preparation in high school and before.

At present, the interest in Florida’s K-12 system in preparing students for college majors in engineering, computer science and physics is stagnant, and perhaps even declining.  While the participation rate for Florida high school students in the Advanced Placement program is among the highest in the nation, the percentages of Florida high school grads having AP credit in calculus, biology, chemistry and physics are only average or below.  Our students are doing great work in language and social science, but only average work in math and science.  This must change.

Many of us teaching at the universities (I am a physics professor at FSU) are working hard to improve instruction to make our professions more accessible to a broader audience of students.  Florida’s SUS institutions are among the national leaders in improving physics instruction at the university level.

But we can only get so far without a much greater contribution from our colleagues at the K-12 level.  I hope that soon the K-12 leadership will become interested in this issue and begin pressing forward.


Paul Cottle

Chair, American Physical Society Committee on Education

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