If the rate at which Florida is awarding new bachelors’ degrees in science and engineering fields (which is shown in the plot above in orange) is good enough for your taste you can stop reading now.
Otherwise, continue on.
The National Science Foundation tracks the rate at which each state graduates new bachelors’ degrees in science and engineering (S&E) fields per 1,000 18-24 year olds in the state’s population. Those numbers from 2016 are shown as the y-axis in the plot. Florida’s rate of 18.7 S&E bachelors’ degrees per 1,000 18-24 year olds is significantly below the national rate of 21.4 and ranks 35th among the states plus DC (51 jurisdictions total).
Of course, the socioeconomic status of the state’s students affects this rate, so in the graph I’ve plotted the S&E rate against the percentage of each state’s K-12 students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch – an imperfect but nevertheless useful measure of the socioeconomic status of each state’s student population.
Florida is that orange dot (sorry, Seminoles) in the lower right hand region of the graph. That means that our state’s students are relatively low-income compared to many other states, and also that we are not making bachelor’s degree graduates in S&E fields at a high rate. In fact, Florida is fairly typical for relatively poor states.
Florida is doing a lousy job preparing high school students for college STEM majors – and that is why we are awarding a relatively small number of bachelors’ degrees in S&E fields. If we want to do better in awarding S&E bachelors’ degrees, we will have to keep more students in the STEM pipeline in middle and high school. That means we have to especially work on bringing more black, Hispanic and women students into our middle school algebra programs and get more of those students to take chemistry, physics and calculus in high school.
Florida is not doing well at this right now, with a low and declining rate of high school physics course enrollment, declining high school chemistry enrollments and average calculus enrollment rates. And state policymakers seem uninterested (or worse).
But it’s clear from this graph that there are consequences for Florida’s neglect of math and science at the middle and high school levels.