Many of these events have involved Fed members doing what they do best - sharing their love of physics by getting involved in education at all levels. And as an APS unit, the FEd celebrated the World Year of Physics with special sessions at the 2005 APS meetings. We hope that this enthusiasm for sharing physics among FEd members will continue well beyond 2005!
Another thing to celebrate is the progress we have made this year in raising funds to endow the Excellence in Physics Education Award. An endowed award through the APS must raise $100,000 in order to be established. Due to the outstanding work of the Wolfgang Christian and the fundraising committee, as of December 2, 2005, $79,055 has been raised.
The Forum has been matching contributions from FEd members up to $30,000 total, and there is $4218 in matching funds left. So if you contribute soon, your gift will be matched by the FEd. If you contribute $100 or more, you can choose to honor a teacher with your gift, and a letter will be sent by the APS to the honoree or the honoree's family informing them of your gift. We have every expectation that the award will be fully endowed by next year, at which point the FEd will annually select a team or group of individuals (such as a collaboration), or exceptionally a single individual, to honor.
In the coming year, the FEd will be sponsoring a number of outstanding sessions at the APS meetings. The topics range from Teaching Evolution to Nuclear Science Education. At the March meeting we are also sponsoring a pre-conference workshop (Quantum Mechanics With Interactive Computer-based Tutorials) that we hope many of our members will attend. And at the April meeting we will have two invited sessions on results from physics education research that we hope will prove useful to our university faculty members, as well as of interest to all APS members who value education research done by physicists for physicists. Whichever meeting you attend, you will find a session sure to pique your interest.
Another important thing to consider at the APS meetings is to write your congressman. The APS public affairs office sets up a station where you can send a template letter to your representatives and urge support for physics. I strongly urge you to do this, and to edit the letter to support physics education along with physics research. Communicating your views to your representatives on this matter is very important, and they do listen, especially if several people from their district write. So urge your colleagues from your department who are attending a meeting to do the same thing. You could have a big impact on how your representative views funding for physics-related items.
Two of our session topics, Teacher Education (March and April) and Graduate Education (April), are very timely. The APS and AAPT established a joint task force to review Graduate Physics education, and the report from this group was published in October 2005 (http://www.aapt.org/Resources/GradEdReport.cfm). The report makes a number of excellent recommendations, ranging from the nature of the core curriculum to the need to share bestpractices between departments and among faculty. The report also discusses items such as the role of professional development in public speaking, ethics training, and the need to establish transparent guidelines for graduate student rights. I recommend that every FEd member who has any concern with graduate education download and read this report.
The topic of Teacher Education is also very timely. The National Research Council has just released "Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future", a major report that focuses on something that APS members know well: knowledge is wealth. The report calls for a huge effort to raise the level of science education and science research in America through the creation of an additional 10,000 new science teachers each year. Bright students would be recruited to science teaching, especially in inner cities and rural areas, with generous educational incentives and salary supplements. The report call for an equally large investment in research, with 10% increases in funding each year for the next seven years, along with other actions to reward creativity. There is also a call to increase the number of US citizens who earn degrees in science, math, and engineering by offering 25,000 new 4-year competitive undergraduate scholarships.
Who will educate these students? It is certain that all of them will pass through our departments, taking one or more physics courses. Therefore the APS is positioned to play a significant role in making this report's recommendations a reality. Right now, legislation is being drafted and will be discussed in the spring. As a registered lobbying organization, the APS can play a constructive role in thatprocess and provide input from the physics community, input that can help make sure that physics departments and individual physicists are able to participate fully in any national effort to improve science education. Together with the Committee on Education, the FEd is working to make sure that the concerns of the physics education community are addressed. And you can help by writing your representative at the APS meeting, as I discussed above. This spring will be a crucial time when you can make a real difference by supporting physics education.
Soon we will have elections for FEd officers for the coming year. I hope all of you will participate and keep the FEd healthy and active. And I hope that all of you will continue working to improve education at all levels, that you urge your colleagues and congressional representative to do the same, and best of all, that you share your love of physics with anyone who is willing to listen.
Ramon Lopez is Professor in the Department of Physics and Space Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida and Chair of the Forum on Education.