Seminole County is once again the best Florida school district in preparing high school students for college STEM majors, according to a Bridge to Tomorrow analysis of course enrollment data posted by the Florida Department of Education.
But being number one (albeit narrowly ahead of Brevard County) isn’t good enough for the Seminole County Public Schools leadership. Instead, the district recently launched a program to promote physics to elementary and middle school students in an effort to coax more students (and their parents) into taking on that subject when they get to high school.
The “STEM Career Prep Index” is calculated by adding high school enrollment rates for the four high school subjects recommended by the American Society for Engineering Education – chemistry, physics, precalculus and calculus. The enrollment rate in each subject is calculated by determining the number of students in all grades enrolled in the subject and dividing that number by the number of 12th graders in the district. Spreadsheets that contain the course enrollment and school membership numbers are posted at the Florida Department of Education website.
The Florida Department of Education began including dual enrollment in its course enrollment spreadsheets in the Spring of 2019, so dual enrollment courses are included here. The one caveat about the present results is that the department only releases the number of students enrolled in a course if there are at least ten students enrolled. So courses without at least ten students enrolled district-wide are not included in the totals used here.
Seminole County is one of only two school districts in Florida that has a physics enrollment rate higher than the national rate of approximately 40 enrollments per 100 12th graders. The other is state’s number one district for physics, Brevard County. Nevertheless, on January 21 the district christened its first “Physics Bus” which brings equipment for hands-on learning opportunities to elementary schools around the district. The district is planning to maintain several such buses and to add middle schools to the program. By inviting students and parents to be more comfortable with physics in elementary and middle school, the district hopes to enroll more students from a wide range of backgrounds in high school courses in the subject – and thus to improve the preparation of those students for college STEM majors.
The Orlando Sentinel published a story on the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first Physics Bus. I participated in the ceremony, which was held at Hamilton Elementary School of Engineering and Technology.