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The University of Alabama

UA Receives $1.6 Million Grant for Physics Education Improvements in High Schools

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama is a partner in a five-year, $8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance physics teaching in Alabama’s high schools.

The Alliance for Physics Excellence, or APEX, program aims to integrate the latest teaching practices into secondary physics programs via pre-service and in-service teacher education, ultimately impacting a quarter of the physics teachers in the state’s school systems and more than 40,000 students.

Dr. Dennis Sunal, professor of science education, is the principal investigator, and Dr. J. W. Harrell, professor of physics, serves as co-principal Investigator of the $1.6 million sub award to The University of Alabama. Other project personnel include three faculty/staff members from the UA College of Education: Dr. John Dantzler, Dr. Cynthia Sunal, and Donna Turner. UA’s department of physics and astronomy is part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The University of Alabama’s role in APEX includes scholarships/stipends ($16,000 per year) for the preparation of pre-service education physics students and a state-wide research program on effective teaching and learning practices of in-service physics teachers in the state of Alabama.

The University of Alabama will receive $1,600,000 for its leadership in these grant activities. APEX will collaborate with other programs within the UA department of physics and astronomy and the department of curriculum and instruction on teacher preparation.

These include a PhysTEC grant (three-year, $300,000) recently awarded by the American Physical Society, and several Physical Science for the 21st  Century grants ($40,000 per year) awarded by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

The goal of APEX is to serve as a model for other large-scale national physics teacher initiatives. Additional partners at The University of Alabama include the department of curriculum and instruction’s SciTeach pre-service teacher preparation program and the Office of Research in Teaching in the Disciplines.

Alabama A&M University is the lead institution in the program. Other APEX partners include J. F. Drake State Technical College, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the Huntsville City School System.

Additional supporting partners are comprised of 11 Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative regional in-service centers, Madison County Schools, Scottsboro City Schools, Madison City Schools, and the Alabama State Department of Education.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.