UCF Advocacy Leads To Bump In Physics Enrollment at Jones High School

A competitive advantage was offered to Jones High School seniors this past year when they were automatically enrolled in physics.

Administration for the high school in the heart of Orlando did so at the urging of UCF leadership and Department of Physics, which recognizes that a full year of physics prepares students to be four times more likely to finish college on time than their peers. These students also typically earn a letter grade higher in their introductory college STEM courses, positively impacting scholarships and graduate program admissions.

These incentives proved enough for Principal Allison Kirby to make the schedule update for seniors, resulting in more than 200 students taking physics classes versus just 20 the year earlier. It was a big win for Adam LaMee, who has actively advocated for these types of moves for six years as UCF’s Teacher-in-Residence in the Department of Physics.

“My career has been dedicated to helping educators see the importance of facilitating enriching physics programs in their curriculum,” said LaMee. “I’ve been at this for more than a decade and to see it resonating somewhere is really nice.”

LaMee is personally invested in this mission as a former high school physics teacher, but the urgency is grounded in statistics as well as passion. Florida high school enrollment in chemistry and physics sits around 22%. That number should be closer to 80%, LaMee said, if Florida wants a competitive workforce to attract high-tech investors and companies.

LaMee wrote a letter in late 2019 to all high school administrators in five Central Florida counties urging a simple solution to reversing this trend: default enrollment in chemistry and physics. Students wishing to opt out would require a parent or guardian’s signature. The letter includes signatures from the former College of Sciences dean and now interim provost, Michael Johnson, Ph.D., the chairs of the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, the director of the UCF Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences and chief of the Proton Therapy Physics at Orlando Health-UF Health Cancer Center.

LaMee was encouraged by the response from Kirby, and foresees more high schools taking this step in the future: “Jones has great physics teachers and the district leadership is really supportive so they’re really a model for how to prepare students for STEM careers”

Said LaMee: “This is just the beginning of some really great enrichment we can do in the realm of high school education. I think that the increase in enrollees will pave the way for a new and improved era of physics at Jones.”


















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