THE NEW JERSEY CENTER FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING Prepares Students, Including Underrepresented Minorities and Girls for AP Physics Exam with Powerful Results

by Ricardo Castillo


We have never doubted that results like these are possible. Now we have proof that the way to achieve those result is to trust educators to do what they do best.
— Wendell Steinhauer, President of the New Jersey Education Association and Member of the CTL Board of Trustees

TRENTON, N.J. -- The New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has announced the results from a Hanover Report that examined trends in the number of students taking and passing Advanced Placement (AP) Physics B among the schools participating in CTL's Progressive Science Initiative® (PSI®) in New Jersey from 2012 - 2014, as compared to trends among students in schools that used traditional physics instruction in New Jersey and more broadly throughout the United States during the same time period. Differences in both the representation and achievement of minority and female students were also examined. [The full report is available at: http://njc.tl/1b8].
CTL supports the development and adoption of PSI, a groundbreaking pedagogy that uses new technology such as interactive white boards for engaging instruction and polling devices for real time assessment, together with a highly collaborative classroom structure that helps every student fulfill their potential. PSI is designed to build a fuller working knowledge of both mathematics and science principles for students as well as to motivate students with an understanding of the integration of these disciplines and their relevance in daily problem solving.

Comparison of PSI, NJ, and US Student Participation Rates, AP Physics, 2014. Source: The College Board, US Census Bureau, and NJDOE.

Comparison of PSI, NJ, and US Student Participation Rates, AP Physics, 2014. Source: The College Board, US Census Bureau, and NJDOE.

Our country currently has a serious shortage of physics teachers, and providing high quality physics and chemistry education to previously underserved populations increases social justice and better prepares our country’s next generation for global competition.
— Dr. Robert Goodman, Executive Director of the New Jersey Center of Teaching and Learning

Key findings from the Hanover Report include:
PSI students take the AP Physics B exam at a higher rate than their peers, and they are also passing the test at a higher rate.
Compared to students throughout New Jersey and the United States, higher percentages of students enrolled in grades 9-12 at PSI schools participated in the AP Physics B exam in recent years. In 2014, PSI students were 4.4 times more likely to participate in the AP Physics B exam than New Jersey students, and 5.4 times more likely to participate in the exam than students across the United States.
Comparative participation in the AP Physics B Exam is particularly strong for underrepresented minority and female students enrolled in schools using PSI.  These higher participation rates are especially notable among African American students: PSI African American students were 8.7 and 10.8 times more likely to participate in the exam than African American students within New Jersey and across the United States.  For minority and female students overall, PSI students are more than five times as likely to participate in the AP exam as students throughout New Jersey or the United States.
Similarly, schools using PSI have higher passage rates than schools in New Jersey and throughout the entire United States.  In 2014, students in PSI schools were 3.4 times more likely to pass the AP Physics B exam than students in New Jersey and 2.4 times more likely to pass than students across the United States. These differences are especially notable among Hispanic students: these students were 5.0 and 3.9 times more likely to pass the exam than Hispanic students taught with traditional programs within New Jersey and across the United States. African American students passed exams at 3.4 times the rate for African American students in New Jersey or across the United States. Female students passed at rates that were 2.8 times that of New Jersey and 4.1 times that of the United States.
CTL has also become the number one producer of physics teachers in the country using the same pedagogy to equip current teachers who are certified in other disciplines to successfully teach physics. The program was accepted in 2015 by 100Kin10 as one of 236 “Best in Class” partners working to achieve President Obama's goal of 100,000 new mathematics and science teachers by 2020. Minorities and women are also more highly represented among these CTL-trained teachers. This model can thereby provide the availability of new physics and chemistry teachers who better reflect the current racial and ethnic makeup of students in American schools and facilitate broader diversity in accessible STEM role models.
Dr. Robert Goodman, Executive Director of the New Jersey Center of Teaching and Learning said, “We are pleased to have the opportunity to make inroads in both creating enthusiasm for and increasing proficiency in physics among all of the students we serve, including underrepresented minorities and girls.  Our country currently has a serious shortage of physics teachers, and providing high quality physics and chemistry education to previously underserved populations increases social justice and better prepares our country’s next generation for global competition.”

Comparison of PSI, NJ, and US Student Pass Rates, AP Physics - 2014. Source: The College Board, US Census Bureau, and NJDOE. 

Comparison of PSI, NJ, and US Student Pass Rates, AP Physics - 2014. Source: The College Board, US Census Bureau, and NJDOE. 

We are pleased to have the opportunity to make inroads in both creating enthusiasm for and increasing proficiency in physics among all of the students we serve, including underrepresented minorities and girls.
— Dr. Robert Goodman, Executive Director of the New Jersey Center of Teaching and Learning

“These stunning results show what can happen when professional educators are given the opportunity to try new approaches to teaching and learning. What these teachers and students have accomplished with the support of the Center for Teaching and Learning should encourage policymakers to empower educators in other areas as well. We have never doubted that results like these are possible. Now we have proof that the way to achieve those result is to trust educators to do what they do best,” added Wendell Steinhauer, President of the New Jersey Education Association and Member of the CTL Board of Trustees. •