As many as four new graduates of the FSU Physics Department will be teaching in Florida high schools next year. That’s a big number. In the 2016-2017 academic year, only nine physics departments nationwide placed more new graduates into high school teaching positions, according to the American Physical Society.
There is a twist to this story, though. None of the new physics teachers from FSU will have graduated from the university’s formal teacher preparation program for math and science, called FSU-Teach. Instead, all were attracted to the teaching profession by two school districts – Orange County and Bay County – that visited the Physics Department to talk with students directly, bypassing the College of Education altogether.
A delegation of three Orange County Public Schools leaders visited the FSU Physics Department on March 29 and spoke with an audience of about twenty students, almost all of them physics majors.
In contrast, FSU-Teach, which is a site for the national UTeach program that originated at the University of Texas-Austin, hasn’t graduated a physics teacher since 2012. Only two physics teachers have graduated from FSU-Teach since its inception in 2008.
FSU-Teach, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this Saturday with a barbecue, does not presently have an option for students to become physics teachers. The College of Education administration terminated that option last fall. Negotiations are underway between FSU-Teach and the Physics Department to restore that option.
Statewide, teacher preparation programs based at colleges and universities supply only a small fraction of the math and science teachers needed by school districts. Florida’s 2017-18 Critical Teacher Shortage Area Report estimated that the teacher preparation programs were supplying only 13% of the teachers that districts needed in the physical sciences (chemistry and physics) and only 44% of the teachers needed in math. A broader view of the results from the report is shown below.
Florida has been a leader for years in alternative certification routes, which school districts like Bay and Orange Counties are using to induct new teachers like those they are recruiting from the FSU Physics Department.