Instead of opening with any more words than those in the title, I’ll just lead with a graph of the district scores in the Orlando Sentinel Math and Science Rankings plotted against the percentages of students receiving free or reduced price lunches.
Yes, socioeconomics – represented here by the percentage of a district’s students eligible for free or reduced price lunch – matter. The graph clearly shows a correlation between the Sentinel’s district math and science score and the free/reduced lunch percentage.
But there is clearly more in play. St. Johns County, which has by far the most affluent student population in the state, was not number one in the Sentinel rankings. And little Jefferson County, which has an epically awful fiscal situation, is in the middle of the pack at 35th. They gave up their last drop of blood to teach their students chemistry and physics.
Consider Orange and Lake Counties, which each have free and reduced price lunch percentages near 60%. Orange County scored 52.1 in the Sentinel district ranking, while Lake scored 26.6.
The Sentinel is publishing an editorial on the math and science rankings in tomorrow morning’s (that’s Tuesday’s) paper. In it, I am quoted as saying that budgets don’t determine STEM success – the district’s priorities do. The plot shown above tells that story as well as it can be told.