Florida’s teacher education programs will never meet the demand for chemistry and physics teachers in the state’s high schools

Here’s an interesting bit from the FLDOE’s 2016-17 Florida Critical Teacher Shortage Areas report:  The FLDOE estimates that in 2014-15 there were 237 openings for chemistry and physics teachers in Florida’s public high schools.  Florida teacher education programs graduated 17.  That’s not a typo – seventeen.

What does that mean at a practical level for the state’s public high schools?  It means that the high schools must go outside of the traditional teacher education pipeline for almost all of their chemistry and physics teachers.

Two of Florida’s districts have extraordinary efforts underway to meet the demand for chemistry and physics teachers outside of the traditional pipeline.  One is Duval County, which is using the business-funded Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program to attract and prepare teachers in hard-to-staff subjects.  The other is Bay County, which is able to offer $5,000 signing bonuses to teachers in high school-level math and science subjects because of a remarkable agreement with the district’s teachers’ union.  The Bay District is also reaching out in remarkable ways to STEM majors at FSU.

Of course, chemistry and physics – the physical sciences – are not the only subjects for which Florida’s teacher education programs fall far short of meeting the demand.  The chart below illustrates data from the FLDOE 2016-17 Critical Teacher Shortage Areas report in a particular way.  Exhibit 4 in the FLDOE document includes a column “Projected Number of Vacancies Reported for 2014-15.”  Exhibit 5 shows the “Number of Students Completing Teacher Education Programs in 2013-14.”  We use these numbers to give a percentage shortage or surplus for a particular subject by subtracting the number of vacancies from the number of students completing teacher education programs and dividing by the number of vacancies.

The physical sciences – chemistry and physics – have the greatest shortage in the plot at -92.8%.  Next is Spanish at -87.2%.  And then “Science-General” at -86.1%.  Math, Art, English, Biology and Physical Education come in the next group between -40% and -53%.

The numbers in the 2016-17 report are several years old, but it seems unlikely that the situation has improved in those years.


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