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Preparing Highly Qualified Physics Teachers: The College of New Jersey

Nathan Magee

[email protected]

This project, which will produce thirty new physics teachers over five years, is addressing a major problem facing high schools in the United States, a crisis of availability of well-qualified high school physics teachers. For every three national openings, only one qualified teacher is trained each year. More than 60% of high school physics classes are now taught by teachers who do not have appropriate training in physics content, and this problem is even more acute at high-need schools. The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program in Physics at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is designed to increase the number of outstanding physics students who are being recruited and certified to become new secondary physics teachers. The TCNJ School of Education and School of Science is collaborating with public secondary schools within the established 18-district TCNJ Professional Development School Network (PDSN), with concentrated training occurring within five local high-need school districts. The project will provide outstanding training and support to new physics teachers, while increasing the number and diversity of physics teacher graduates. The number of new physics teachers directly supported by this project will be regionally significant, and includes a commitment to service in high-need schools. Furthermore, the project will establish a model that is feasible to reproduce at other institutions across the nation. <br/><br/>The TCNJ project is motivated by a dire shortage of highly qualified physics teachers in New Jersey and nationally, and by a severe lack of diversity and lack of access to physics teacher expertise in high-need schools. In response to these needs, the major goals of the project are to: a) attract, retain, and sustain a minimum of six physics-certified graduates per year through the period of support and beyond; b) substantially improve science education in the region, especially by increasing teacher diversity and availability of expert physics teachers to high-need local schools; and c) contribute new knowledge to physics education research through faculty research, enabled by novel programming linked to systematic assessment of student outcomes. Benefits include the preparation of highly qualified physics majors that will become the thirty new physics teachers. With respect to propagating the outcomes broadly, this project will: a) provide a compelling model for growth, especially for primarily undergraduate institutions, which is where most physics majors train; b) disseminate gained knowledge in physics teacher education research through publications and presentations; and c) substantially increase physics expertise, diversity, and resources to high-need schools. Statistics on physics teacher demand and average physics teacher preparation are very worrying. This shortage is still growing because many new state standards are requiring greater numbers of high school students to take physics. Only ~40% of HS physics teachers have a physics degree (lowest of any HS subject). This project is tackling this challenge head-on by starting to recruit in high schools and every step along the academic curriculum. There will not only be the immediate benefit of the thirty new physics teachers, but other institutions may learn from the model being established at TCNJ.

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