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Frequently Asked Questions

about the National Report Card on Physics Teacher Preparation

What is the National Report Card?

The National Report Card (NRC) is a quantitative illustration of the low numbers of high school physics teachers prepared across the United States. At the same time, it highlights universities that are state and national leaders in physics teacher preparation.

The NRC shows:

  • The number of graduates from each physics teacher preparation program
  • The total number of physics teachers prepared annually
  • The estimated need for new physics teachers in each state and nationally
  • Institutions with active physics teacher preparation programs that are helping to meet the need for new physics teachers in each state

There are many resources available through PhysTEC to help build physics teacher preparation programs toward solving the physics teacher shortage.

What is the source of data used by the National Report Card?

National Report Card data come from information collected by the U.S. Department of Education under Title II of the Higher Education Act. These data are publicly accessible on the department’s website.

Read more details about the Title II data that the NRC uses.

How is the need for high school physics teachers estimated?

High school physics teacher need is estimated by determining the number of physics teachers in each state, then multiplying that by an annual attrition rate of 7% to determine the number of new physics teachers needed in that state.

Currently, only about 40% of high school students in the United States take at least one physics course in high school. We estimated the teacher need consistent with this national average, as well as if all high school students take one physics course in high school. We note that our estimates are intentionally conservative: specifically, we are comparing the number of new physics teachers prepared each year to our estimate of how many teachers are leaving (e.g., retiring).

Read more details about our teacher need estimates.

Why are there different ways to count the numbers of physics teachers prepared, and what are they?

The Title II data include three different ways to count teachers, including based on (1) the teachers’ academic majors, (2) the subjects of their teacher preparation programs, and (3) the areas of their state certifications. It is not appropriate to add numbers in different categories, as it will result in double-counting.

Read more about the different counting methods and how the NRC uses them.

What data drive the NRC banner graphic showing the severe physics teacher shortage in the US?

This graph illustrates the gap between physics teacher need and preparation rates in the US. Both datasets are rolling averages over 3 academic years (September-August) ending in the year indicated on the x-axis. The top blue line depicts the physics teacher need estimate (see this needs estimate FAQ for more details). The shaded yellow region at the bottom shows the estimated number of qualified physics teachers prepared by US colleges and universities, based on Title II data (see this counting methods FAQ for more details).

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