April 6, 2016
West Chester University has been added to "The 5+ Club," a prestigious roster of institutions that have produced five or more physics teachers in a single year. The list is managed by the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC).
Physics Department Chair Anthony Nicastro notes that “WCU has graduated five or more students in our B.S.Ed. program in each of the last three years,” which probably puts the University in an even more elite but unrecognized group.
"To many, such a graduation rate does not sound impressive until it is put in context," Nicastro continues. "Every year about 1,400 people are hired to teach high school physics [in the U.S.], but only about a third of them have a physics degree. That represents about 10 students per year per state, so WCU produces about half of a typical state’s complement of high school physics teachers."
Among 59 education fields, physics has the highest shortage of teachers, according to a 2014 report from the American Association for Employment in Education. Teacher education institutions are turning out fewer physics teachers despite a slow but steady growth in enrollment in high school physics courses.
Nicastro says the lack of trained physics teachers is detrimental to high school students: "Two-thirds of high school physics teachers have only had a couple of physics courses in their undergraduate training, not enough to be truly prepared for some of the highly talented students who are in our nation's secondary schools."
WCU offers the bachelor of science education (B.S.Ed.) in physics that includes teacher certification in the state of Pennsylvania for students who complete the program. Degree requirements include 24 core credits in physics and a full semester of student teaching at a regional high school. In the past five years, WCU students have completed their student teaching semesters at Downingtown, Henderson, Octorara, Oxford, Phoenixville, Ridley, Unionville, Upper Darby, and Upper Merion high schools. WCU graduates also teach at some of those schools.
The University also offers a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program for individuals who already have a degree in physics, as well as the B.S. in physics and the B.S. in physics-engineering.
The 5+ Club winners, a total of 12 institutions that also includes Rowan University (5), University of Arkansas (5) and Boston University (6), were recognized at the opening plenary of the PhysTEC Conference in Baltimore in March. Brigham Young University topped the list, graduating 17 physics teachers in one year.
PhysTEC is an education program of the American Physical Society (APS) in partnership with the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), with support from the National Science Foundation.