TOPSS Celebrates 20 Years

APA Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) is celebrating its 20th anniversary! The TOPSS Interim Steering Committee was formed in 1992 and the TOPSS Committee was officially established by APA’s Council of Representatives the following year.

TOPSS Anniversary

Summer 2012 Psychology Teacher Network article:
20 years of support for high school psychology by TOPSS Chair Jann Longman

20 Years of TOPSS Accomplishments

In 20 years, TOPSS — through support from the APA Education Directorate — has become a national, recognized APA professional organization for high school psychology teachers — the first and only such membership group that exists.

  • TOPSS provides vital, dynamic, practical, effective and informative resources to enhance the experience of students and teachers in the study of psychological science.
  • TOPSS has brought recognition of the thousands of high school teachers who are bringing the first, and sometimes only, academic introduction to the study of psychological science to the best and the brightest students in the nation.
  • TOPSS has given precollege educators a voice on the national level to advance issues of particular importance to the teaching and learning of psychological science.
  • The "National Standards for High School Psychology Curricula," first published in 1999 and revised in 2005 and 2011, support high quality teaching of psychological science and provides a framework for teachers and others to use to develop introductory psychology courses for high school students
  • TOPSS has published 19 unit lesson plans for high school psychology teachers, each providing content, activities and resources for the high school class.
  • TOPSS offers competitions for high school psychology students, through the TOPSS Scholars Essay Competition and more recently, the TOPSS Poster Competition for high school psychology students.
  • TOPSS annually gives up to three APA TOPSS Excellence in Teaching Awards to recognize outstanding teachers of high school psychology.
  • Through generous support of Lee Gurel, PhD, and the American Psychological Foundation (APF), high school teachers can apply to attend the annual APA/Clark University Workshop for High School Teachers in Worcester, Mass., and can apply for new APF funding opportunities to support professional development.
  • TOPSS sponsors five hours of programming at the APA Convention each August.
  • TOPSS has made membership recruitment a priority, especially through its Regional and State Coordinator networks, and encourages all high school psychology teachers — whether they teach Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or regular psychology — to join TOPSS.
  • TOPSS has worked to collaborate with the National Council for the Social Studies and other national organizations to promote the teaching of high school psychology.
  • TOPSS supports new "Guidelines for Preparing High School Psychology Teachers: Course-Based and Standards-Based Approaches" as an important policy document that will have important implications for preparing future psychology teachers who are prepared to teach the high school course according to the National Standards.

TOPSS has been fortunate to have the support of many individuals, including Charles Spielberger, PhD, APA Past President, and Charles Brewer, PhD, of Furman University, who played key roles in the establishment of the TOPSS Committee. Since that time, nearly forty high school teachers and approximately 19 college advisors have served on the TOPSS Committee.

As TOPSS continues to grow the benefits and opportunities for members will continue to expand.

A Brief History of TOPSS

Since the 1970s, high school teachers have joined APA as Teacher Affiliates. Within the APA governance structure, a Committee on Psychology in the Secondary Schools (CPSS) was established to address precollege psychology issues. However, by the late 1980s, as APA was experiencing some financial difficulties, this committee, among others, was sunset.

By the early 1990s, APA was on more stable footing and began reorganizing some of the Central Office and governance structure. APA established the Education Directorate and the APA Board of Educational Affairs (BEA). In addition, APA reaffirmed the importance of high school psychology through the formation of the APA Committee of Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS). The TOPSS Committee was set up as an APA continuing committee reporting through the APA Board of Educational Affairs to the APA Council of Representatives.

Twenty years later, TOPSS is a vibrant committee of educators committed to ensuring that high school psychology teachers have the resources they need to accurately teach psychological science to high school students. This is important because the high school classroom is often the first, and possibly the only, time students have the opportunity to learn about psychology. There have been dramatic changes in high school psychology enrollment in recent years.

Currently about 1,700 APA High School Teacher Affiliates are participating in APA as members of TOPSS. More about the TOPSS mission and membership benefits.