The adoption of the California Science Framework was intended to broaden career options for students, but the State Board of Education's recommendation that all high school students take physics is putting greater pressure on schools to find qualified teachers at a time when few are available, EdSource reports.
Districts have the option of offering a four-course option of biology, chemistry, physics and earth/space science or a three-course option of biology, chemistry and physics with earth/space science integrated into the other courses, but California requires teachers to be certified in each subject. However, the state has already experienced a 30.5% decline in teacher candidates earning physics credentials between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 school years.
Some colleges are trying to help address the issue by participating in the American Physical Society’s Physics Teacher Education Program, which provides a clear pathway to the credential and encouragement to pursue it. The San Francisco Unified School District is also partnering with the San Francisco Teaching Residency program to help students become credentialed in at least one STEM disciple and earn a master’s degree and National Board certification, but it still struggles to find enough credentialed physics teachers.
Finding qualified STEM teachers is a nationwide challenge for many school districts. In California, the change in science standards, which was meant to improve science education and career options for students, is causing more of a challenge because of the requirement for specific credentials in these subject areas at a time when STEM recruiting is difficult even for the business and research community.
Some states are trying to solve the teacher shortage issue by recruiting retired teachers to fill the posts or by lowering testing standards for credentials to make them more obtainable. But these may be temporary solutions to a larger problem. Districts are also exploring a variety of bold options when it comes to recruiting, including poaching teachers from other districts as competition grows fierce.
The competition for physics teachers is especially high as demand for students ready to pursue the field grows. School districts can help address immediate needs for physics teachers by offering courses online or partnering with local community colleges for instruction, an option that may allow students to earn college credit as well.
Partnering with college teacher preparation programs can also help ensure candidates meet future STEM needs. School districts can also work to help develop their own physics teachers by encouraging and supporting promising candidates as they pursue further education in teaching high school physics, or join professional organizations dedicated to the development of science and physics teachers.