National Report Card Technical Information

Welcome to the National Report Card Technical Information page. This page is a more technical supplement to the FAQ page. Please click on a section below to read more about it.

The U.S. Department of Education collects data annually on teacher preparation programs under Title II of the Higher Education Act. Each year, programs self-report data on their program graduates, and the Department combines this information with the results of each state's teaching certification exams. This is all combined into large Excel files and is publicly available on the Title II website.

For the PhysTEC National Report Card, each year's data is downloaded and analyzed. The Title II data includes three main methods for counting the number teachers prepared: teachers counted by their academic major ("major"), by the subject area of their program ("subject"), and by their area of state certification ("area"). Teachers counted by major and subject are reported to Title II by each institution of higher education (IHE). The states then report the areas of teachers who have passed their state certifications to Title II as well as data for non-IHE-based programs (using all three counting methods). See the FAQ page for more information about counting methods.

There are several implications that accompany the different, overlapping counting methods. Teachers counted by their academic major earned that degree either at the same time as or before they completed a teacher preparation program and not necessarily at the same institution as the preparation program. Teachers counted by the subject area of their program have met the criteria established by the state to qualify for licensure in that subject. These criteria are different in each state. The results of these two counting methods are reported to Title II by individual IHEs and by the state for non-IHEs; respondents must select different majors and subjects for each student from drop-down menus with limited numbers of options. Teachers counted by area of certification have earned a certification with a specific title which is then reported to Title II by the state. Teachers counted this way do not necessarily have a degree closely related to their certification title, making it difficult to assume they are highly qualified. Because PhysTEC includes physics preparation in its own definition of "highly qualified physics teacher," the data presented on this website focus mainly on teachers counted by major unless otherwise stated.

All data presented on this website is from the three most recent calendar years for which Title II data are available. As program and institution names sometimes change, we use the most recent names and apply them to all five years of data. In addition, if a program becomes inactive at some point during the five years of most recent data, the program is not included at all. To identify physics-specific categories for all three counting methods, we used all of the categories that explicitly mention "physics," resulting in the following lists:

Majors included: "Physics", "Teacher Education - Physics", and "Astronomy and Astrophysics"

Subjects included: "Teacher Education - Physics"

Areas included: Because the "area" reporting method does not have pre-populated choices and every state reports different names for areas, we filtered out all certification titles that did not include the word "physics." If a range of grades was also specified in the certification title (e.g., "Physics 5-12"), we did not include those that only extended up to grade 9, assuming high schools generally include grades 9-12. This was to keep everything as consistent yet inclusive as possible.

Note that the "Majors" method does not count minors. A nationwide survey by the American Institute for Physics found that for every 100 physics teachers with a major in physics or physics education, another 28 had a minor in one of those subjects.

We estimated the number of physics teachers required to educate the current population of high school physics students in the US, and together with teacher attrition rates, this allowed us to estimate the need for new teachers.  

The total population of high school physics teachers was estimated based on the number of physics classes taught in each school.  This data is available from the Civil Rights Data Collection.  We assumed that in a given school, each 1-4 additional physics classes per year required 1 additional physics teacher per year.  This results in an estimate of about 30,600 physics teachers in the U.S., which is close to the total number of 27,000 physics teachers reported by the AIP Statistical Research Center (note this number excludes teacher at alternative schools and some other schools).  The estimated number of physics teachers in given state was calculated based on the estimated number of physics teachers in each school located in the state.

The number of new teachers was calculated from the total estimated population rate and an annual teacher attrition rate of 7% (see the "Teacher Attrition Rate" section below).  The estimated total number of new physics teachers needed each year in the U.S. is about 2,100.  This is greater than the number of new physics teachers actually hired, which is estimated at about 1,400 according to the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics (T-TEP).  T-TEP also found that teacher numbers were augmented by in-service teachers of other subjects who got assigned to physics.

To calculate the level of need for teachers, we used a teacher attrition rate of 7.0%. This value is from Attrition of Public School Mathematics and Science Teachers, a 2008 issue brief from the National Center for Education Statistics, which reports that STEM teacher attrition is lower than the overall secondary teacher attrition rate.

Other related estimates of teacher attrition rates were considered but not used, including:

  • The American Institute of Physics' Statistical Research Center estimates the attrition rate of physics teachers is 4%, based on its 2010 survey of in-service physics teachers.
  • A 2009 report published by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education uses data from the SASS reports to identify the numbers of teachers in different subjects (English, Science, etc.) entering and leaving the profession each year. In the general subject area of Science, the ratio of the number of teachers who left the profession to the total number in the workforce gives an estimated attrition rate of 9.69%.