After last year’s precipitous drop in high school physics enrollment, Leon County’s physics program stabilized this year despite a continuing sharp decline at Lincoln High School, which was once the district’s best school for science.
According to figures supplied by the Florida Department of Education, Leon County’s district high schools enrolled 750 students in physics classes this fall (fall 2017). FLDOE says this fall’s numbers are still preliminary and subject to revision. In the fall of 2015, district-wide physics enrollment stood at 963, but then dropped to only 711 in fall 2016, a 26% drop in a single year.
Four years ago, in the fall of 2013, only 642 students were enrolled in physics in Leon County’s high schools. That number shot up to 1,059 in the fall of 2014 – a 65% increase. That increase was led by a new physics program at Godby High School, which previously had not offered the subject, and massive increases in enrollment at Rickards and Lincoln High Schools. Leon and Chiles High Schools experienced less spectacular but still large increases in physics enrollments.
Lincoln High School accounted for the bulk of the district’s drop from its fall 2014 peak. From fall 2014 to fall 2017, physics enrollment at Lincoln dropped 67%. The school’s decline of 191 students accounted for 62% of the district-wide drop of 309 during that period. Lincoln had two physics teachers on staff for many years, but recently consolidated to one physics teacher.
Lincoln’s fall 2017 physics enrollment rate of 21 physics enrollments per 100 12th graders is now the district’s lowest by far. Fall 2017 physics enrollment rates at the district’s other large high schools are 35 at Rickards, 37 at Godby, 41 at Leon and 56 at Chiles. Chiles, Leon and Lincoln have affluent student populations according to free and reduced-price eligibility rates, while Godby and Rickards have very challenging demographics.