Orange County Public Schools are making tremendous progress in advanced math course-taking among their middle schoolers. The district’s high school calculus enrollment rate is already pretty high, and is likely to go higher with the high achieving middle schoolers entering high school.
So now it’s time for Orange County to work on high school physics. As in the case of math, course-taking in physics has as much to do with the choices that school personnel and parents make as it does with socioeconomics. And the data from Orange County for high schools with 200 or more 12th graders (shown below) make that crystal clear.
Let’s start by looking at the affluent end of the chart. The school at 50 physics enrollments per 100 12th graders is Timber Creek High School, with a free and reduced-price lunch eligibility rate of 32%. Physics is valued at Timber Creek. But not so much at the other two equally affluent high schools, Winter Park (physics enrollment rate of 29 and FRL of 35%) and West Orange (physics enrollment rate of 20 and FRL of 34%). Those disparities almost certainly represent choices made by personnel in those schools.
At the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum (FRL of 100%) are four schools. Three (Colonial with a physics enrollment rate of 13, Cypress Creek at 12 and Evans at 14) manage to maintain physics programs. The story of the fourth school – Jones High School with its failure to offer physics to its students – has been told publicly several times. Once again, it’s about choices made by school personnel. School leaders at Colonial, Cypress Creek and Evans find a way to offer physics. Jones does not.
In between is the strong program at Apopka High School (physics enrollment rate of 36 with FRL of 58%) and the remarkably weak program at Boone High School (physics enrollment rate of 10 with FRL of 49%).
Altogether, the graph above is a clear statement of which high schools in Orange County want to prepare their students well for college majors in STEM fields, and which are really not that interested.