To the Editor:
The physical education program at Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Ill., is, as you report, an excellent example of how daily physical activity can improve students’ academic performance (“Exercise Seen as Priming Pump for Students’ Academic Strides,” Feb. 13, 2008). But while I commend that school’s innovative approach, more needs to be done to strengthen both the minds and bodies of American children. With childhood-obesity rates skyrocketing and student test scores declining, high-quality physical education should be a priority in all public schools.
To build a healthy and productive future for our children, heart-pumping physical activity must be an integral part of each school day. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of instructional physical education for elementary school students, and 225 minutes for middle and high school students.
Naperville has achieved success through its daily physical education program. But this is not the norm nationwide. In most districts, physical education is being decreased or cut altogether to allow more time for reading and math instruction. A significant body of research, however, shows that physical activity and learning go hand in hand. These findings have been overlooked for too long.
This generation of children will not live as long as their parents or grandparents. Nor, if their rates of obesity and inactivity do not change, will these children lead productive lives. Their failing health will have a crippling effect on our health-care system. The answer is very simple: Children should have daily, quality physical education, taught by certified physical educators.
Congress has an opportunity to address two major concerns—childhood obesity and lagging academic achievement—by supporting legislation that would amend the No Child Left Behind Act to encourage schools to provide quality physical education for all students.
Cindy A. Hess
Physical Education Specialist
A version of this article appeared in the March 05, 2008 edition of Education Week as Amend NCLB to Require Quality Physical Education