The Physics Education Research (PER) group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has received a $2.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve the quality and accessibility of high school physics courses across the State of Illinois through a new program called the Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools (IPaSS) Partnership Program. The IPaSS program already kicked off its first intensive summer institute in mid-June, welcoming a small cohort of four physics teachers. The number of teachers in the IPaSS program will expand incrementally each year over the four years of grant funding, maxing out at 40 Illinois physics teachers.
The goal of the new program will be to provide high school students across the state with the highest quality high school physics experience, engaging students’ interest in STEM fields and preparing them to succeed at competitive research institutions like the U of I. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math—fields the U.S. government has recognized are a high educational priority for a strong tech-field workforce. The program will not only help align existing high school physics courses with university-level expectations, but will also provide support for under-resourced high schools to offer physics courses for the first time.