Is Florida a strong Advanced Placement state? Sure. A strong AP STEM state? Nope.

A February 22, 2017 press release from the Florida Department of Education titled “Florida Continues to Lead the Nation in Advanced Placement Exams and Narrow the Achievement Gap” crows:

According to the Advanced Placement (AP) Data Report issued today by the College Board, Florida ranks first in participation in the AP exams during high school and third in the nation for improvement over the last decade.

Governor Rick Scott said, “These results are proof that the investments we are making in education are preparing students to begin college and enter the workforce prepared to succeed. With the ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ education budget, we once again increase funding at all levels to ensure Florida remains the best state in the world to live, work and receive an education.”

But are Florida’s students excelling in the AP science and math courses that will best prepare them for college STEM majors that lead to the economically most robust career paths?


The plot below tells the story.  It compares Florida to the nation at large and the state that leads the nation, Massachusetts, in five categories of AP courses.  The metric is the number of exams that students passed during the May 2017 exam period divided by the number of thousands of high school students.

The numbers of students passing the exams come from the recently released state-by-state reports from the College Board.  The number of high school students in Florida comes from the state’s Department of Education.  The national number of high school students is the 2017 projection from this National Center for Education Statistics page.  The Massachusetts high school population comes from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Florida is a leader in world languages, social sciences and the arts.  The state is also doing OK in English.

But in math and science?  Florida is below the national rate, and far, far behind Massachusetts.

In other words, Florida is doing fine in the “A” in “STEAM”.  The rest of it?  Not so much.


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