Education Statement

K-12 Access to Physics and Teacher Preparation

Adopted by the Council on November 23, 2013

Revision Approved by the Council on October 13, 2023

The American Physical Society calls upon local, state, and federal policy makers, educators and schools to:

  • Provide every student access to high-quality science instruction including physics and physical science concepts at all grade levels; and
  • Provide the opportunity for all students to take at least one year of high-quality high school physics.

Context and potential actions

Physics and physical science provide context for understanding critical issues facing society today. Further, physics provides a foundation for careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and many other fields. Nevertheless, physics and physical science are too often neglected in K-12 schools, in part because of severe shortages of qualified teachers.

Providing high-quality instruction in physics and physical science for every student will require a nationwide effort to:

  • Provide increased resources and incentives to enhance physics and physical science teacher recruitment, retention and professional status
  • Provide current teachers of physics and physical science with extensive evidence-based physics-specific professional development experiences
  • Support development and adoption of research-validated curricula, pedagogies and assessments in physics and physical science
  • Support efforts that improve participation and achievement in physics and physical science education for students from underrepresented groups
  • Provide increased resources and incentives to enhance physics and physical science teacher recruitment, retention and professional status

Undergraduate physics programs are the primary academic unit preparing future physics teachers, and therefore should have a significant role to play in addressing the shortage of highly qualified physics teachers. At many institutions, a student graduating with a physics degree must complete one to two additional years of graduate coursework to earn a teaching certification. To help alleviate the shortage, all physics departments should:

  • Clearly articulate the path by which their majors can receive teacher preparation and certification
  • Work with Colleges of Education to ensure that any post-baccalaureate path to certification adds the minimum additional time and expense for the student
  • Strive to find a path to certification that would allow a physics undergraduate to receive teacher certification within the standard four-year undergraduate program
  • Advocate to university administration for the importance to society and the physics profession that all children receive high-quality science instruction and the critical role universities play in preparing the teachers that provide such instruction

APS stands ready to support this effort. APS, working with the American Association of Physics Teachers and other organizations, leads efforts to prepare and develop high-quality U.S. high school physics teachers.

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