## How do we alleviate the shortage of qualified physics teachers?

 Quote by physics girl phd Show me a university with an organized course like that for some science camp (supported by physics, chem, bio, etc. departments along with teacher ed), and I'd show you a program that could recruit and train excited, qualified teachers that can teach at a K-12 level.
While not exactly that, I can't say enough about the Physics Education program at Illinois State. ISU is known as mostly an education school, and as far as the special ed and primary ed programs I'm sure that's true, but from the little I saw the secondary ed program I hated it. However, most of the secondary ed training takes place inside the content area itself. Even though my degree was Physics Education the whole way through, I took a bunch of ed classes and still was only 1 semester away from a full physics degree, so content knowledge was no problem.

As far as teaching experiences, we were only required 80 hours of observation by law, but our program required 140, a large portion of which was hands on experience in the classroom. We also took part in several teaching activities at local science museums, and went to teach a couple lessons at the Juvenile Detention center in town. While not a part of the program itself, the department runs something called "Physics on the Road" where we take physics equipment and demos around to schools that either lack the money for equipment, or the student numbers for physics courses and teach concepts and lessons. We also took part in a "Physics Night" each month at the children's discovery museum.

Even though nothing can really make you 100% ready for teaching until you get through your first year, this program really gave us as much experience as possible, with as much content knowledge as possible.

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 Quote by Birkeland While not exactly that, I can't say enough about the Physics Education program at Illinois State.
Thank you! I knew there were some out there -- your alma mater's well-established "physics on the road" and "physics night" programs sound like great ways to get participants in the field. As Andy points out, the "inertia" of some institutions can be hard to overcome. People think $$is hard to come by, and then get possessive about their stuff / turf and are afraid to let undergrads have at it (especially if this undergrad doesn't compare favorably to that one ten years ago). I'm glad to see from your profile you're still an active teacher / success story (and I agree about that first year about being the true test point -- but our training programs certainly need to provide as much good prep for that first year as possible!).  Quote by physics girl phd People think$$\$ is hard to come by, and then get possessive about their stuff / turf and are afraid to let undergrads have at it (especially if this undergrad doesn't compare favorably to that one ten years ago).
You know, I never really thought about it, but I think part of the reason the program might have been as successful as it is might be because the school does not have a grad program. As I understand it, the university has tried to encourage the development of a grad program, but the department has fought it, preferring to focus on undergrad. Personally I loved it, because it meant that the undergrads did research with the professors, and I got to publish a couple of papers, and I got to TA lab sections of gen ed classes, all of which gave me experiences I might not have otherwise had.

Then again, I could be completely wrong and it could be very common for a large portion of undergrads to do research.
 Salaries are an issue but the teacher still needs to have the desire to teach. I'm teaching because that's what I want to do even though I could make (and have made) a lot more doing other things. There's no performance bonus anything like that. The days are long, at least the hours I put in. A lot of the kids are brats and think they deserve an A for walking in the door and the parents are worse. The students expect to have a "review sheet" that has the exact problems (they are ok if the values are a little different) that will be on the test. The students throw a fit if you put any problem on a test where they have to use previous knowledge and common sense to solve instead of just memorizing the answers. The students are severely lacking in math skills, even rearranging a simple algebraic formula. The elementary and middle school teachers have a poor grasp of science. I heard a 3rd grade teacher telling the kids an open circuit lets the electricity flow just like you open a faucet to let the water flow. They split social studies time with science time and if the administration doesn't rob that time for an assembly or such, the elementary teach spends more time on social studies because that's where the teacher is more comfortable. Finally, The State of Texas is in the process of dumbing down physics to what was once called physical science. The intentions were good -- every student needs four years of science and four years of math to graduate but all this does is force kids who aren't ready to show up at my door. then I have to spend a month on significant figures and algebra review so they don't get a 40 on their first report card. Blah. Ok, I finished. But in spite of all of that, my administration is great and I do enjoy what I'm doing.

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 Quote by jamesnb The students are severely lacking in math skills, even rearranging a simple algebraic formula. The elementary and middle school teachers have a poor grasp of science.
The high school (in Texas also) I went to ended up replacing almost the entire math department after the first year it opened. I think most of them couldn't take the utter lack of basic math skills; I think there was a major breakdown in math education at the middle school level.

 Quote by jamesnb I heard a 3rd grade teacher telling the kids an open circuit lets the electricity flow just like you open a faucet to let the water flow.
What?? That's almost as bad as this.

 Quote by jamesnb Finally, The State of Texas is in the process of dumbing down physics to what was once called physical science. The intentions were good -- every student needs four years of science and four years of math to graduate but all this does is force kids who aren't ready to show up at my door.
I looked over the new end of course exam topics for physics and was horrified.

 Finally, The State of Texas is in the process of dumbing down physics to what was once called physical science. The intentions were good -- every student needs four years of science and four years of math to graduate but all this does is force kids who aren't ready to show up at my door. Then I have to spend a month on significant figures and algebra review so they don't get a 40 on their first report card.
Yeah, as bad as that is I might be able to top it. My school is now requiring that all 11th students must take physics. This is a low income community where 45% of the school has free lunch. Some kids come in at a 3rd grade reading level. As a result of all this, I was put in charge of the committee to write the new curriculum. I also happen to be the only teacher with any real physics training. Despite this we will have 3 teachers teaching physics who have never taken a physics class in their life. On top of this, I wanted to make the lowest level course (where the kids who have never passed a math class are) a conceptual course. I was told that it had to be algebra and trig based (even though some kids can't add) because "that's the model we are following".

But that’s ok, what follows is a paraphrased conversation the year we were told this was happening.

ADMIN: We will require all juniors to take physics. If you look at your data I gave you, you’ll see that students who have taken physics score higher on the ACT. As a result, we have decided to drop Earth Science for Physics so that they will score better.

ME: But, physics is currently optional.

ME: So the students taking it are more likely self motivated, are planning on college, or have parents involved in their life pushing them to take the course. That’s the three groups of students predisposed to do well on the ACT!

ADMIN: But the numbers say physics good!

ME: You’ve never taken a stats class have you?

Oh well, job security I guess.

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 Quote by jamesnb A lot of the kids are brats and think they deserve an A for walking in the door and the parents are worse. The students expect to have a "review sheet" that has the exact problems (they are ok if the values are a little different) that will be on the test. The students throw a fit if you put any problem on a test where they have to use previous knowledge and common sense to solve instead of just memorizing the answers. The students are severely lacking in math skills, even rearranging a simple algebraic formula. The elementary and middle school teachers have a poor grasp of science. I heard a 3rd grade teacher telling the kids an open circuit lets the electricity flow just like you open a faucet to let the water flow. They split social studies time with science time and if the administration doesn't rob that time for an assembly or such, the elementary teach spends more time on social studies because that's where the teacher is more comfortable. Finally, The State of Texas is in the process of dumbing down physics to what was once called physical science. The intentions were good -- every student needs four years of science and four years of math to graduate but all this does is force kids who aren't ready to show up at my door. then I have to spend a month on significant figures and algebra review so they don't get a 40 on their first report card. Blah. Ok, I finished. But in spite of all of that, my administration is great and I do enjoy what I'm doing.
 Quote by jhae2.718 The high school (in Texas also) I went to ended up replacing almost the entire math department after the first year it opened. I think most of them couldn't take the utter lack of basic math skills; I think there was a major breakdown in math education at the middle school level.
 Quote by Birkeland Yeah, as bad as that is I might be able to top it.
Ugh. I empathize with you all. The way standardized tests have impacted the US school system is horrifying and even worse, there is still a push to *increase* the role standardized tests have on the educational system, by tying student test scores to teacher salaries and promotions.

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 Quote by Andy Resnick Ugh. I empathize with you all. The way standardized tests have impacted the US school system is horrifying and even worse, there is still a push to *increase* the role standardized tests have on the educational system, by tying student test scores to teacher salaries and promotions.
With the caveat that I am not an educator, but merely a survivor of the horrors of the system, I must say I agree with you. Also, I apologize in advance for the following rant...

<rant>
The amount of ridiculous and, quite frankly, idiotic things we were forced to do to "prepare" for standardized tests was horrifying. The brainwave of the science curriculum administrators at the district I went to for preparing for standardized exams (in Texas, the infamous TAKS test) were "foldables". These were different papers that the students would put together and would fill in notes dictated by the teacher. In other words, it was essentially a kindergarten level activity applied to high schoolers, leading to no benefit at all.

When I took the algebra-based physics course my high school offered (prior to taking a proper AP Physics course; this course was labeled 'Pre-AP'), I was shocked and horrified at just how bad the course was. Some of the general crimes against mathematics and physics committed were:
• Claims that the kinematic equation d = 1/2at2+vt* could not be solved because the "t was in two places, and one was squared", lest we have the horror of having to explain how to select the correct solution to a problem.
• The density of water being described as 1 kg/m3, because apparently the teacher or whomever developed the curriculum could not do the simple conversion of units.
• Problems were entirely formulaic and were either "one-step" or "two-step". These required no critical thinking at all, reducing the exercises of the class to simply "plug and chug".
• Free-body diagrams were only glanced over, and the entirety of exercises consisted of drawing an FBD for a block. The use of FBDs as a problem solving tool was not covered. How does one do physics without an understanding of how to draw a free-body diagram?
• Vectors were barely covered, and in a way that had no usefulness. (I realize a high school physics class should not necessarily be at a college level, but surely they don't need to be dumbed down this much?)
• One of the worst was the claim that work could only be done horizontally, in the "x" direction. I don't know how they got this idea, as it makes no since at all.
We never got to electromagnetism, but I don't even want to think of the horror inflicted there. It scares me to think of the people coming out of that class with such misconceptions of physics. Even worse, however, was the total lack of problem solving skills or critical thinking. This has to be one of the worse aspects of the current education system, that students are no longer made to think critically.

I think the science education in the K12 system is pretty awful; I think a lot of teachers aren't qualified to teach hard sciences. At the very least, to teach a science one should possess a degree in that science. Of course, that's easy to say, but it brings us to the macroscopic subject of the thread, namely the lack of qualified physics (and I think science in general) teachers.

And on this, I'm not sure how we can resolve the issue. I only know that it is imperative that we do.

(On another note, one of the best classes I took in high school was a Pre-AP Biology class. The teacher was extremely knowledgeable on the subject (shockingly she actually had a master's degree in biology, and not something like a masters in education; she also was a part time lecturer at a nearby university) and was demanding of the students. But of more interest from a pedagogical side was a program she helped start whereby local high school teachers would do research in their subject in labs at that particular university over the summer. I think that it is a great idea, and should be more widespread. I'm not sure if the program survived; she ended up retiring after the school administration kept complaining that she made students work too hard and wanted her to tone down the course.)

*We couldn't have the horror of writing it as a function of time, could we?
</rant>
 I'm lucky in that I have pretty good students and most of the parents care and like I said before, the administration is supportive. I really hate this idea the students have that the homework problems should be the same test questions. They start whining and literally crying on test day because they've "never seen this stuff before". They also think they are entitled to a review sheet with the exact problems that will be on the test. I try to structure the assessments so if they do the homework and try, they can make a C. If they can apply some of what they learn they can make a B and to get an A+, they need to be able to do some higher level thinking and apply previous knowledge. Sorry but I had to vent because it was another round of test whining. Plus, it's mid-April and some of them are acting like they've never heard of vectors or the relationship between velocity and acceleration. Thanks for the gravity magnet, jhae; that was funny.
 In second grade, my son was being taught the states of matter; solid, liquid, gas. One day at a bookstore, he happened upon an Encyclopedia of Science. Paging through, he stopped and ran to me across the store exclaiming that there was a FOURTH state of matter - Plasma! It was, in his mind, the best state because it occurs so rarely and the conditions have to be just right. We were both thrilled at his "new" discovery. I had him write down some details of his discovery to show his teacher. He is dyslexic, and although this was just emerging, his dysgraphia made his effort difficult. Still, I encouraged him, and he took his paper bouncing on his feet to school in anticipation of sharing this great news. The teacher's response? "We won't be studying that here, you'll learn about it in a few years." That was the first time this teacher crushed his enthusiasm for science and exploration. The second time, the class was told to make Mother's Day cards. He drew himself and I on the moon happily waving (I was in the pink space suit). His teacher took the card, told him is wasn't acceptable, had him throw it away and try again. To my everlasting joy, he retrieved the card and gave it to me anyway because, "I knew you'd understand mom, and like it." Just two examples. Kids can learn so much more than they are offered. We chose to home school. We found pattern cut-outs of T4 Bacteriophages online from a Colorado University for a science class. We printed and constructed the project and he learned all about DNA, proteins, cells cycles...age 8. His IQ was tested at only about 128 so he wasn't necessarily "gifted", but innately curious. He also needed psycho-therapy due to the cruelty of teachers who not only did not catch signs of a learning disorder, but punished him because he could read as fast as others, complete assignments as quickly, or write in cursive. Physics, mathematics, reasoning, learning to learn conceptually or differently begins in elementary school and often before. You cannot alleviate the shortage of "qualified" physics teachers without thinking back to how they 'germinate' and then construct a system that nurtures curiosity.
 Get the government to pay for my house/petrol/food/bills/uni fees, then you have 1 more high school physics teacher in the making! Sorry must have fell asleep for a second there :)
 Sorry, a bit of a rant as well coming from the student/parent perspective. So many caveats to teaching and learning. Still I believe children can be fascinated by seemingly complex ideas at very young ages - and that is where we must start.