A Note from the Teacher Preparation Section Editor
John Stewart, University of Arkansas , Fayetteville
This article was prepared during the first few weeks of a new school year. Like every year before, since the time of Eisenhower, the local newspapers contained a number of articles about the desperate shortages of teachers and the extraordinary lengths local school boards have had to resort to in order to fill teaching positions. Teacher shortages are extremely acute in STEM disciplines. The September 2006 issue of Physics Today reports on the outcomes of the 2003 class of physics majors. In that year, 4553 bachelor's degrees in physics were awarded with only 5% of the students, or 228 students, listing pre-college teaching as their first career goal. Studies suggest that 50% of these new teachers will leave the profession within five years. The underproduction of physics teachers has lead to many students being instructed by teachers without a major in physics. In the 1999-2000 school year 67% of high school students were instructed by a teacher without a major or certification in physics . These numbers suggest that teacher recruitment and training must be a high priority for every physics department and for the profession as a whole.
To address the need for more well-trained teachers, with physics content knowledge as well as knowledge of pedagogically sound methods of presenting physics, the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers initiated the Physics Teachers Education Coalition (PhysTEC) . This project seeks to build model programs which form connections between physics departments, colleges of education, university administration, school systems, and local teachers. The PhysTEC program brings expertise from the school systems into physics departments. It forms connections which foster recruitment of new physics teachers, training of those teachers both in physics and in sound educational method and placement of teachers in schools. Our first four articles come from primary PhysTEC sites at the University of Arizona , the University of Arkansas , the University of Colorado and Western Michigan University . Each will discuss the specific features of their programs that support recruitment and their experiences with increasing the number of physics graduates going into education.
One of the more promising methods for providing the emphasis on education and the personal contact needed for recruiting is to bring a master teacher with strong K-12 experience into the physics department, a Teacher in Residence or TIR. The TIR is an integral part of all PhysTEC sites. Our fifth article is by two TIRs who discuss their roles in the recruiting and education of teachers at the University of Arizona and Western Michigan University .
The National Science Foundation offers a number of programs to help with the recruitment and training of new STEM teachers. Our final article, by Joan Prival, an NSF program officer, reviews these programs. The programs cover both key elements of teacher recruitment: increasing the number of STEM graduates (thus increasing the pool from which new teachers can be drawn) and specific programs for students considering teaching as a career.
John Stewart is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Arkansas and Co-Principal Investigator for the Arkansas PhysTEC site . He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com
T Feder, Numbers up in undergraduate physics, astronomy, Physics Today, 59 , 32(2006).
Qualifications of the Public School Teacher Workforce: Prevalence of Out-of-Field Teaching 1987-88 and 1999-2000, National Center for Education Statistics, (2002).
PhysTEC Web Site , http://www.phystec.org