The dual enrollment program in Florida’s public schools is not making a significant contribution to the state’s pipeline for bachelor’s degree-level STEM fields like engineering, physical sciences and computer science.
In fact, the dominant use of the dual enrollment program in the key STEM subjects of math, chemistry and physics is for students to earn college credit for learning math content that is traditionally learned in high school courses in algebra, trigonometry and precalculus.
In the spring semester of 2019, 13,593 students were enrolled in dual enrollment classes in Precalculus, Trigonometry, College Algebra and even lower level classes like Intermediate Algebra that do not earn college credit. Intermediate Algebra is a “developmental” class taught mostly by institutions in the State College System (previously knows as community colleges) to remediate students who do not yet qualify to take College Algebra.
In contrast, only 1,023 high school students were dual enrolled in the Calculus 1 and Calculus 2 courses required for students majoring in engineering, the physical sciences and computer science. Another 317 were dual enrolled in calculus classes for business and social science majors.
While 2,777 students were dual enrolled in chemistry courses, only 1,578 of those students were enrolled in chemistry courses required for STEM majors.
Only 542 students were dual enrolled in physics classes.
The dual enrollment numbers come from the Spring 2019 course enrollment spreadsheets recently posted by the Florida Department of Education. While the department did not include dual enrollment numbers in its course enrollment spreadsheets for the last several years, those numbers were included this spring.
To meet accreditation requirements, a college instructor must have earned 18 credit hours at the graduate level in the discipline being taught. Therefore, in order to teach a dual enrollment class on a high school campus, a high school teacher must have 18 credit hours in graduate math courses – and math education courses do not count toward that requirement.
Therefore, as difficult as it is for a high school principal to recruit a teacher who is properly certified (with Florida’s Math 6-12 certification) to teach a standard high school precalculus course, it is much more difficult to recruit an educator who has the 18 graduate credit hours in math necessary to teach the dual enrollment version of Precalculus.
Students may also dual enroll to take a course on a college campus, or to take a course from a college instructor online.