A national task force has issued a strongly worded report raising concerns about the poor state of teacher education in physics and offering ideas to improve the situation.
“Except for a handful of isolated pockets of excellence, the national system of preparing physics teachers is largely inefficient, mostly incoherent, and massively unprepared to deal with the current and future needs of the nation’s students,” the National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics says in a report synopsis released last week.
Of the 23,000 teachers of high school physics, only one-third have a major in physics or physics education, notes the task force. It was formed by the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Physical Society, and the American Institute of Physics, all of College Park, Md., with funding from the National Science Foundation.
“In many states, weak standards for certification or endorsement to teach physics hide the fact that many teachers of physics lack the content knowledge and focused pedagogical preparation necessary to provide an excellent physics education to all students,” says the task force.
The panel urges physics departments and colleges of education to recognize that they have individual and joint responsibility for the professional preparation of physics teachers at their institutions. It also calls on the NSF and the U.S. Department of Education to develop a coherent vision for discipline-specific teacher preparation and development and asks states to replace general-science teacher certification with endorsements in individual subjects.
A version of this article appeared in the February 24, 2010 edition of Education Week as Wanted: Well-Trained Physics Teachers