In this blog, I often focus on the high school courses that are necessary to prepare students for bachelor-level STEM majors – chemistry, physics, precalculus and calculus. But it is at least as important to prepare the general high school population for associate degree-level STEM careers. And for a high school student to be prepared for an associate degree program in a STEM field, she or he must successfully complete Algebra 2. (See Michael Marder’s discussion of the importance of Algebra 2 for associate-level studies in Education Policy Perils: Tackling the Tough Issues)
The plot below shows how well Florida’s school districts are doing in having students successfully complete the state’s Algebra 2 end-of-course exam – that is, passing the exam with a score of 3 or better. It is important to understand the scale I am using: The numerator is the number of district students who passed the Algebra 2 EOC this spring (I am not including passing scores from the other two annual administrations of the test). The denominator is the total number of high school students enrolled in the district’s schools. So if every graduate from district high schools was passing Algebra 2 sometime during high school (or middle school), then we would expect that the metric I am using to be about 25%.
But instead of 25%, the middle group of districts is running about 6-7%. This partly reflects the apparent difficulty of the Algebra 2 EOC – the statewide passing rate this spring was 40%. But it also reflects the fact that many students are steered away from Algebra 2, thus ending the possibility that these students will have careers in STEM fields (No, “Liberal Arts Math” – a popular Algebra 2 alternative – does not prepare students for STEM careers).
It’s also important to clarify the situation in Orange County, which falls near the bottom of the ranking. Orange switched from an unusual Algebra 1 – Algebra 2- Geometry sequence to the conventional Algebra 1 – Geometry – Algebra 2 sequence this year. The tiny number is a result of being in the end stages of that switch. See the Orlando Sentinel article on that situation here.