13.1 Statement on K-12 Access to Physics and Teacher Preparation

The American Physical Society (APS) calls upon local, state, and federal policymakers, 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.

The study of physics and physical science develops context and tools for understanding critical issues facing society today. Further, physics provides a foundation for careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and many other fields that are vital to the nation. 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 the 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

Undergraduate physics programs play an important role in 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 schools 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 teaching 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 for the critical role universities play in preparing the teachers that provide such instruction

APS, working with the American Association of Physics Teachers and other organizations, leads efforts to prepare and develop high-quality US high school physics teachers.

Revision Approved by the Council on October 13 2023 
Adopted by the Council on November 23, 2013
Category: Education

APS Statements

APS Statements are public policy statements that undergo a meticulous process of draft and review, including receiving comments from APS members, before being voted on by APS Council at one of its semiannual meetings. The review process for APS statements may be started at anytime if deemed necessary by the Panel on Public Affairs, and at least once every 5 years.