Once a year, I become a troll. The day I become a troll follows quickly on the day that the Florida Department of Education issues its annual press release bragging on the state’s success in Advanced Placement courses.
What I say every year is this: Florida’s standing in the AP universe is powered by its nation-leading performance in social science courses, which in turn is driven by the state’s aggressive system of incentives to schools for student success on AP exams.
Despite these incentives, which apply to all AP subjects and not just AP social science, Florida is only average in the rate at which students take and pass AP math and science subjects. This is illustrated in the plot below, which sorts AP subjects into categories and compares the numbers of AP exam passers per 1,000 students in the state to the corresponding quantities for the nation and Massachusetts, which is everybody’s #1 state for K-12 math and science. The AP exam statistics come from the spreadsheets posted at the College Board’s 2019 AP Program Participation and Performance page.
Florida’s continuing underwhelming performance in AP math and science subjects is a continuation of the state’s “Just Read, Florida!” focus. You can read your way through AP social science courses (my kids did), but that isn’t good enough in calculus or physics.
I’m also including a plot showing the severe underrepresentation of black students among Florida’s AP exam passers in calculus, physics and computer science. Black students accounted for 22% of Florida’s public school students in 2018-19, but 6% or less of the AP exam passers in the two calculus courses, the physics courses and the legacy (and higher level) Computer Science A course. In Computer Science Principles, 9% of the exam passers were black. This underrepresentation is reflected in the underrepresentation of bachelors’ degree graduates from State University System institutions in these subjects (also shown).
OK, Florida AP braggers. Consider yourselves trolled!