Although a large majority of states mandate physical education in schools, most do not require a specific amount of instructional time for the subject, and more than half allow exemptions, waivers, and/or substitutions for students to skip P.E., a new study finds.
“These ‘loopholes’ continue to reduce the effectiveness of the mandate,” says the report by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and the American Heart Association.
The two groups are urging states to beef up their P.E. requirements to help students slim down and stay healthy. They recommend that schools provide 150 minutes per week of instructional P.E. at the elementary grades, and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students. Only Alabama aligns with these guidelines, the report says.
The report, which draws on recent surveys of P.E. coordinators in all 50 state education agencies, as well as the District of Columbia, points to a variety of ways that students may not get adequate physical education in school.
Thirty-two states permit districts or schools to allow students to substitute other activities for P.E., such as JROTC, marching band, interscholastic sports, and cheerleading, the report finds. Also, 30 states allow schools or districts to grant exemptions or waivers for P.E. time or credit requirements. Common reasons include health issues, physical disability, religious beliefs, and early graduation.
The report comes as the U.S. House of Representatives in April passed a bill that would impose a new set of reporting requirements on school districts so that the public has a better handle on exactly what schools are offering when it comes to physical education.
Also, a federal study issued in early May found “substantial evidence” that physical activity at school can help improve the academic achievement of students, including through leading to higher grades or improved standardized test scores.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.