At present, the graduation requirements for Florida’s public high schools nominally include four credits in math and three in science. I use the word “nominally” because the state’s statutes presently allow students to substitute certain industry certifications for two of the math credits and two of the science credits.
But until now, the state has left intact the requirements for the highest priority math courses – Algebra 1 and Geometry – and the highest priority science course – Biology.
It appears that is about to change.
Three separate bills (HB 7055, HB 7071, SB 770) advancing through the Legislature in this session’s final weeks include language that would allow a “student who earns an industry certification in 3D rapid prototype printing” to “satisfy up to two credits of the mathematics requirement, with the exception of Algebra I, if the commissioner identifies the certification as being equivalent in rigor to the mathematics credit or credits.” That is, the 3D printing certification can be used to substitute for Geometry in Florida’s graduation requirements, if the Commissioner of Education approves.
Why is that a problem? Nearly all jobs that can support a middle class lifestyle over the long term require some sort of postsecondary credential – either a certification or an associate’s degree. To achieve either, students need a certain amount of mathematical skill – in short, a student will almost certainly need to pass College Algebra at some point. Nibbling away at the high school graduation requirement in math will make it less likely that students will be able to succeed in College Algebra and earn postsecondary credentials that will lead to good jobs that are sustainable over the long term.
I have serious doubts about the long-term durability of jobs in 3D rapid prototype printing. While a high school graduate with such a certification might be able to make a good living for a few years, the 3D printing job will almost certainly become obsolete while the student is still in her or his 20’s. And without the mathematical skill to move on to a postsecondary credential, she or he will be left high and dry economically.
There seems to be little point in complaining about the inevitable. But in adopting the 3D printing certification substitution, Florida will be crossing an important threshold in lowering the high school graduation bar. It seems unlikely that this action, and similar future actions, will serve the state’s young people well.