This summer, my undergraduate student Connor Oswald investigated high school physics-taking rates in the different states by asking the state departments of education for data. He received detailed data for either the 2013-14 or 2014-15 school years from 29 states – enough to make some nice comparisons among states with different and similar demographics. We are working through a detailed report that will be submitted to a periodical-yet-to-be-determined that serves the national community of physics educators.
But here is one result that we are ready to announce right now: Georgia blows away Florida in high school physics.
In the last school year, 2014-15, there were 55,598 students taking physics in Georgia’s public high schools. In Florida, there were 48,226. So Georgia wins on absolute numbers.
But wait – doesn’t Florida have more high school students than Georgia? Yes. In fact, while Georgia had 106,598 12th graders last year, Florida had 189,459.
We usually compare school districts in Florida using a parameter we call the “physics index” that is the quotient of the number of students enrolled in physics classes and the number of 12th graders. That number is an upper limit on the districts physics-taking rate, since some students take two physics courses while in high school.
If we calculate the physics index for Florida, we get 0.255. If we calculate it for Georgia, we get 0.522.
So the physics-taking rate in Georgia is about twice what it is in Florida. And Georgia’s physics-taking rate is higher than those of all but three Florida school districts – Brevard, Seminole and Leon.