In 2017, Florida continued to be below average in preparing its students for college majors in STEM fields. A dramatic increase in the numbers of 8th and 9th graders passing the spring administration of the state’s Algebra 1 end-of-course exam provided a spark of hope for the future, but there were storm clouds approaching, too – a dramatic decline in the supply of new high school math teachers.
Florida compared poorly on the math and science sections of the ACT college entrance exam with other states in which more than 70% of high school graduates had taken the test.
Florida’s incentives for success on Advanced Placement exams continued to drive the state to a national leadership position in AP social science and arts exams. But Florida is still below average – and far behind nation-leading Massachusetts – in AP math and science exams.
Not surprisingly, these math and science education deficits at the high school level propagate to the college level, too. Florida lags the nation in the rate at which bachelors’ degrees in science, engineering and technology are conferred.
There was good news. The number of 8th and 9th graders passing Florida’s Algebra 1 end-of-course exam in the spring jumped dramatically.
But it’s not clear who will teach these students when they want to sign up for Algebra 2, Precalculus and Calculus classes. The supply of new teachers qualified to teach these higher level math courses has been declining sharply since 2013.
The supply of new physics and chemistry teachers is down as well, but those subjects were taken off the state’s list of critical teacher shortage areas for 2017-18. It’s probably not a coincidence that Florida high school physics enrollments in Spring 2017 were 5% lower than they were two years before.