Upside down in Leon County: low SES Godby leads in physics enrollment rate, while wealthy Chiles trails

We generally expect that high schools with lower SES students teach less physics than high schools with higher SES students.

And often that expectation is wrong.

Like in Leon County.

The plots of physics enrollment rates below show that Godby – listed by the FLDOE having a 95.2% free and reduced-price lunch eligibility rate (FRL) – has the district’s highest physics enrollment rate.  We actually show two ways of calculating the rate, which I’ll explain below.  But still.

Chiles High School, with an FRL of 8.6% (I kid you not), has the lowest physics enrollment rate of any of the district’s main high schools (excluding SAIL).

Just for completeness, Leon’s FRL is 29.3%, Lincoln’s is 26.8%, Rickards’ is 90.6%, and SAIL’s is 59.7%.

And of course, Rickards is ranked 2nd.

A note about the two plots:  The top plot lists the ratio of the number of physics enrollments to the number of 12th graders, which is my usual formulation.  But the dropout rates at Godby and Rickards are higher than those at the more affluent schools, giving those schools something of an advantage when the denominator is the number of 12th graders.  So the bottom plot just uses the total number of students (grades 9-12) as the denominator.  The gap between rich and poor (or perhaps more appropriately here, poor and rich) narrows but does not disappear in the bottom plot.

What is going on here?  The answer at Godby is easy:  the charismatic physics teacher Zondra Clayton, who was the school’s Teacher of the Year last year and who I’ve praised several times before.

This nice example demonstrates that physics is an unusual or perhaps unique subject in that physics enrollment rates have much more to do with decisions by administrators than socioeconomics.

The school-by-school physics enrollment numbers were graciously provided (once again!) by Cheryl Etters and her crew at the Florida Department of Education.

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