Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA)


I have taught for 25 years and I believe that this program prepared me to meet new demands of 21st century teaching more than any other workshop that I have attended.

-- Gwen Hunter, Chaffin Junior High School, Arkansas 

Program Type

Teacher Development/Training

Target Audience

Teachers/Educational Leaders




Grades 9 - 12

 Promising link

Program Impact

Teachers attending AAPT/PTRA institutes had significant gains in their understanding of STEM content, implemented changes in teaching strategies, and integrated more technology in the classroom, data collected since 2003 on both teachers and students indicate. In addition, students of teachers who attended the institutes had greater gains in achievement than students of teachers who did not. Since 2011, the program has reached more than 100,000 students.


Program Overview

The mission of Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) is to improve the teaching and learning of physics and physical science for all K–12 teachers and students in the United States. PTRA is recognized as a leading K–12 physics and physical science professional development program for practicing teachers.

The mission of Physics Teaching Resource Agents (PTRA) is to improve the teaching and learning of physics and physical science for all K–12 teachers and students in the United States. AAPT/PTRA is recognized as the leading K–12 in-service physics and physical science professional development program. The program received the American Physical Society’s 2011 Excellence in Education Award for “providing peer-led professional development for 25 years to more than 5,000 physics and physical science teachers nationwide.”

AAPT/PTRA maintains a nationwide cadre of more than 150 experienced master-teacher leaders. These certified physics teaching resource agents (PRTAs) attend yearly institutes to stay current on standards, technology and the latest physics education research.

Since its founding in 1985, the program has provided high-quality, peer-led professional development for over 6,000 teachers nationwide. Between 2011 and 2014 alone, over 950 teachers in grades 3–12 have attended one- or two-week institutes led by PTRAs. These teachers each work with 100 to 150 students on average each year, so since 2011 the program has impacted more than 100,000 students.

The infrastructure developed over the past 30 years promotes strong partnerships with universities, colleges, businesses, informal science institutions and K–12 schools across the country. The program is currently working with several organizations to promote authentic STEM experiences, which support the Next Generation Science Standards.

How To Get Involved

Collaborations with corporate funders can provide several advantages that state or government partnerships cannot. In particular, corporate partners provide valuable expertise in the business world to advise educators on real-world applications for the content they and their students are learning. Corporate funders also can provide financial support for the next generation of master-teacher leaders who are trained to provide peer-led professional development to their colleagues. In addition, corporate partners can help educators with the ever-increasing expense of equipment and technology. 

As an example, one corporate partner purchased $12,000 in technology for teachers in 2003. Eleven years later, some of this equipment is still in use by several teachers in small rural communities in West Texas. In fact, just last summer a retiring teacher who had some of the equipment shipped it back to a PTRA with the stipulation that it be used to help another teacher who needed the probes and technology. 


Dr. Robert Hilborn

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Design Principles

The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against the Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.

  • Accomplished
  • Developing
  • Undeveloped

Overarching Principles

  • Need

    Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.

  • Evaluation

    Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.

  • Sustainability

    Ensure work is sustainable.

  • Replication and Scalability

    Demonstrate replicability and scalability.

  • Partnerships

    Create high impact partnerships

  • Capacity

    Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.

STEM Principles

  • Challenging and Relevant Content

    Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience

  • STEM Practices

    Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.

  • Inspiration

    Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.

  • Under-Represented Groups

    Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.