Top ten reasons high school physics is in trouble in Arizona

by Earl Barrett, retired high school physics teacher.  EJBarrett9@gmail.com


10.       Physics enrollment in the U.S. and Arizona appears to be driven by the AP program. Standard/core/regular high school physics enrollment has suffered as a result.


9.         Colleges in the US produce 0.5 physics teachers per year -- not enough to replace the retiring teachers. Funding is lacking to retrain our high school science staff, and it is unreasonalbe to expect teachers to shoulder the cost.


8.         Teacher salaries are no longer competitive with the private sector, and few districts pay higher salaries for areas of high skill/need such as physics. This leaves Arizona with no way of attracting physics teachers nationally. Unfortunately we still hear the same talking point, ŇMore money canŐt solve our problems in educationÓ, yet itŐs done in business every day and itŐs called free enterprise.


7.         Business leaders and politicians clamor for more STEM-trained workers but have yet to realize that physics is STEM.


6.         Although Modeling Instruction is recognized as an effective teaching strategy, training and support from the federal government is severely lacking. It does not get the respect it deserves at decision-making levels of education -- both locally and nationally.


5.         60% of the new jobs that will open in the 21st century will require skills possessed by only 20% of the current workforce. No one has figured out that these are the workers who have physics skills.


4.         The increase to a mandatory four years of mathematics and three years of science for HS graduation in AZ has seen a decrease in physics enrollment, especially in non-AP physics.  Physics teachers are in a dogfight for students with colleagues for the same student population. Instead of being regarded as a core science course like biology and chemistry, physics is still considered to be a class for the engineering-bound.


3.         Students and parents lack an understanding of why physics education is so important in todayŐs job market.


2.         Counselors, administrators and science staff rarely work together to develop a process that encourages students to enroll in classes that would be most helpful to them in a post-high school career.


1.         High school physics instruction lacks a powerful advocate, both locally and nationally.  Just who is or could be the voice for physics education?  AZ-AAPT, AAPT, AEA, ASTA? or is it a grass roots solution that changes the future?


updated October 2015.