Florida’s high schools have a computer science problem: There isn’t very much.
There are about 190,000 12th graders in Florida’s public high schools this fall (according to the Florida Department of Education).
But there are only 1,994 students registered for AP Computer Science in the school districts (according to enrollment figures recently posted – another 483 are registered with Florida Virtual School). So only about 1% of Florida’s high school graduates have even taken the AP Computer Science course.
AP Computer Science has been showing strong growth in Florida for several years, but the number of students registered for the course this fall in the school districts is about the same as it was last fall – perhaps signaling a leveling-off. (Florida Virtual School is up a bit – this year’s 483 number is a bit higher than last fall’s 412)
AP Computer Science students are concentrated in a small number of school districts. Broward County has the largest number of students in the course at 380. Seminole County is 2nd in the state in AP Computer Science enrollment with 287 students, even though it has less than one-quarter the number of high school students that Broward has. After Seminole come several more of Florida’s biggest districts – Orange County (270 AP Computer Science students), Dade (246), and Hillsborough (242). No other districts have more than 200 AP Computer Science students, and only Brevard (111) has more than 100.
I sometimes get a little snotty about the attention computer science gets in public schools at the expense of subjects like calculus and physics. But even I have to admit that Florida’s AP Computer Science situation is absurd.
What should Florida do to reignite growth in AP Computer Science? It is almost certain that there is a shortage of qualified teachers, although I have no statistics on that. Recruiting more qualified computer science teachers should certainly be a priority.
And of course, there are now bills in the Florida Legislature to spur growth in computer programming instruction in the high schools. Perhaps they can help as well.
The AP Computer Science situation is so severe that it will probably require an attack on multiple fronts.