A TIME for Physics First improves test scores

The program will partner with Missouri school districts starting in 2010.

Physics professors are attempting to increase the number of Missouri high schools offering physics courses through a new teacher development project, according to an MU news release.

The project is part of a program called the Academy for Teachers using Inquiry and Modeling Experiences for Physics First, or A TIME for Physics First, and will be funded by a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The project will partner MU faculty with school districts across Missouri, William Woods University and Lincoln University.

"College-level physics classes progress at a fast pace, and instructors expect a lot out of their students," said Meera Chandrasekhar, A TIME for Physics First director. "This often comes as a major shock to students without a background in physics. Coming into college with a good physics background will positively impact student success and the number of science and engineering majors our nation produces."

According to the news release, the grant will fund a five-year teacher development program for 80 ninth grade science teachers. The program will also provide summer academics and year-round support to enhance their knowledge and abilities to teach physics, in addition to promoting institutional change in the science curriculum, the news release stated.

Dorina Kosztin, an MU physics professor involved in the project, said recruitment for the program has already begun and the first classes will be in June 2010.

The news release stated teachers who are accepted into the program would be expected to adhere to requirements and use the curriculum in their classes. A weeklong program also encourages math teachers to work alongside their physics counterparts, with administrators being educated about the benefits of teaching physics earlier in high school.

A TIME for Physics ran a similar teacher development project with students graduating in 2010. Although the students affected by the program have yet to graduate high school, their teachers are reporting an increase in their science and math scores, Chandrasekhar said.

"This project is based on the previous project, but there are several differences," Kosztin said. "This project involves leadership training for the participants, the curriculum is being revised to be more student-oriented and the academic year component is more extensive."

According to the news release, the order of science curriculum taught in high school was founded in 1892 to standardize curriculum for American high schools. Richard Jesse, former UM system president and Jesse Hall's namesake, was a member of the committee.

"Knowledge of science has changed dramatically since 1892," Chandrasekhar said. "Biology has morphed from a descriptive science to a fairly technical, molecular study that combines elements of physics and chemistry. With the current understanding of science, it makes more sense to teach physics first."

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