AAPT Statement on High School Physics Courses
for College-Readiness in STEM Areas

Adopted by the Executive Board in January 2015

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) recognizes that high school students have a wide variety of career aspirations and interests and that consequently no single type of high school physics course will serve all students well. For students who intend to go to colleges and universities and pursue STEM-related majors and who want to be well prepared for college-level STEM classes, AAPT believes that the appropriate year-long high school physics course should have the following characteristics. The course:

  • has clearly articulated learning objectives and instructional strategies based on a small number of foundational (core) ideas and science practices, such as developing explanations based on evidence, articulating and using scientific models, performing data analysis and drawing conclusions from evidence,
  • includes learning assessments closely tied to those learning objectives,
  • has a pedagogical structure based on the results of physics education research,
  • limits the number of content topics so that students have adequate time to develop deep conceptual understanding of those topics as well as qualitative and quantitative problem-solving skills,
  • has significant inquiry-based laboratory work, including experimental design activities, and
  • is accessible to students who are completing a mathematics course at the level of the traditional Algebra II course. The necessary trigonometry could be acquired from a concurrent mathematics course or from the physics course itself.

AAPT encourages all high school teachers of physics and school administrators to adopt physics courses that meet these criteria. AAPT also recognizes that courses will need to be adapted to meet local curricular needs and to work within the limits of local resources.We note that the kind of course described above will prepare students to meet the performance expectations articulated in the Next Generation Science Standards (http://www.nextgenscience.org), the criteria suggested by the Advanced Placement (College Board) Program (http://advancesinap.collegeboard.org/math-and-science/physics), and the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards (http://www.act.org/standard/planact/science/).

Although AAPT does not endorse specific curricula, we note that the Advanced Placement Physics 1 and 2 courses, the International Baccalaureate (IB) physics curricula, and the American Modeling Teachers Association curricula (http://modelinginstruction.org/) meet the criteria articulated in this statement.