On his blog, Bridge to Tomorrow, Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle laments that students aren’t getting the push they need from parents, guidance counselors and teachers to take tougher math and sciences classes in middle and high school.
The result: fewer students completing degrees in STEM fields, those high-tech, lucrative jobs in science, technology, engineering and math that both presidential candidates in Tuesday night’s debate deemed necessary to get the economy back on its feet and competitive with the rest of the world. So Cottle created what he calls the “antidote’’ – Future Physicists of Florida. And interestingly enough, the launching pad for his new program is built on traditional, magnet and charter schools.
Cottle said he doesn’t favor one type of school over another. The mix is really accidental. Once science teachers heard about the program, they reached out to him.
“We’re trying to find any way we can to get kids to take on these academic programs,’’ Cottle said. “I’m looking for great teachers anywhere.’’
And there are great teachers in all kinds of schools, he said.
Cottle’s program officially begins next month with an induction ceremony in Tallahassee. It will offer middle school students and their parents advice on which high school courses better prepare students for physical sciences and engineering majors in college.
“We know what students need to do to give them the best opportunities in STEM fields,’’ said Cottle, who was among the educators who helped craft Florida’s K-12 science standards.
He cites a 2007 University of South Florida study that found students who take physics in high school are twice as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field as those taking only chemistry. Such a degree will likely translate into a high-paying job upon graduation with some occupations, such as chemical engineering, commanding starting annual salaries of $70,000 or more.
Six public schools, including three charters, are taking part in the Future Physicists program.