Why are there different ways to count the numbers of physics teachers prepared, and what are they?
States and institutions differ widely in how they prepare physics teachers and what they require for certification. For example, some states require an undergraduate degree in physics while others only require a certain number of credit hours in physics. Preparation programs may meet state requirements in different ways, even within the same state. Consequently, there is no single, standardized way to count the numbers of physics teachers prepared. The Title II data include three different ways to count teachers. Each of these methods only counts individuals who completed a teacher education program and specifies the "physics" component in a different way:
- Physics-related major: Individuals who completed a teacher preparation program and graduated with a major in physics, astronomy or astrophysics, or physics education. These numbers are reported by each institution to the US Department of Education per Title II.
- Subject of program: Individuals who completed a teacher preparation program that was explicitly designed to prepare physics teachers. These numbers are reported by each institution to the US Department of Education per Title II.
- Area of certification: Individuals who completed a teacher preparation program and were certified by their institution’s state to teach physics, i.e. the certification area contains the word "physics." These numbers are reported by each state to the US Department of Education per Title II. We note that some states do not offer a specific certification for physics or they will certify teachers using broader categories (e.g., "physical sciences" or "science"). In these cases, new physics teachers will not be counted in our analysis.
There is significant overlap among these counting methods, and it is not appropriate to add numbers in different categories since this likely will result in counting individuals more than once.
PhysTEC’s definition of a highly qualified physics teacher is based on research that found that effective teachers of secondary physics need both physics content (at least a minor degree) and sufficient training in physics-specific pedagogy. Unfortunately, Title II does not collect data on minors nor on training in physics pedagogy. However, a nationwide survey by the American Institute of Physics found that for every 100 physics teachers with a major in physics or physics education, another 28 had a minor in one of those subjects. An upcoming report from AIP with 2019 survey data found a similar ratio. The Report Card on Physics Teacher Preparation focuses on using an estimate of the number of new teachers with at least a physics-related minor. This estimate is derived from the Title II data on new teachers prepared with a physics-related major and adding 28% to account for teachers with physics-related minors. This number is used on the state- and national-level pages. However, on the pages with reports for individual institutions, we only report the values that are reported to Title II for teachers with a physics-related major.
That said, it is important to capture other ways of counting the number of new physics teachers prepared each year. On the pages that display institution or state data, we also present the number of new teachers in the Title II data who were prepared by a physics-related program ("prepared by subject", per Title II) as well as those who received a physics-related certification from their state ("prepared by area", per Title II). These values will differ from the number of teachers with a physics-related major and/or the estimated number with a physics-related minor. For example, in some states, more teachers will be prepared by a physics-related program than those who have a physics-related major and/or minor. Alternatively, in some states, there will be more new teachers who have a physics-related major and/or minor than those who completed physics-related programs (e.g., they may have a physics major but completed a general science teacher preparation program).