When It Comes to Physical Education, Where Does Your School Stand?

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By Amanda Li, Junior Policy Associate

Physical activity plays a crucial role in the health and well-being of children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise helps kids build healthy muscles and bones; reduces risk of obesity, diabetes, colon cancer, cardiovascular ailments, and a myriad of other chronic diseases; promotes mental health while reducing feelings of anxiety and depression; and helps kids learn more effectively and do better in school. It is essential that we teach kids the importance of physical activity from a young age, and that we provide them with the necessary support, structure, and instruction to stay healthy and active through adequate physical education courses. The investment we put into quality physical education for our children now will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

The New York State Education Department mandates at least 120 minutes per week of physical education in public elementary schools and at least 90 minutes per week of physical education in public secondary schools. Unfortunately, The Campaign for Educational Equity found that across New York State there are high-need school districts with significant deficiencies in their capacity to provide sufficient physical education (PE) to their students. Many schools do not have enough teachers that are certified in physical education, nearly half of the schools in the study did not meet the minimum time requirements for PE courses, and schools also lacked adequate equipment for PE instruction.

With so many of these high-need schools concentrated in New York City, the Phys Ed 4 All Coalition works hard to advocate for higher quality PE across NYC schools. In November 2015, the Phys ED 4 All Coalition helped pass the PE reporting bill (Local Law 102 of 2015). Under this bill, the NYC Department of Education is required to report information concerning PE instruction, such as the time and frequency of classes, certification of instructors, and the facilities used. The failure of the Department of Education to publicize and track basic information related to physical education is a huge obstacle to improving PE quality in schools across the city. The passage of Local Law 102 will advance our efforts to get physical education across the city—and eventually across the entire state—to meet standard requirements.

On August 31, 2016, just over 9 months since Local Law 102 was passed, the Department of Education released its first report on PE instruction in NYC schools. This report details the status of physical education in schools and how it can be improved to parents and leaders in the school’s community.

DASH-NY is excited to see this progress being made at the city level to improve physical education for our children. During the last DASH-NY Steering Committee meeting, committee members decided to support several policy priorities to advance physical education across the state in 2017. These policy priorities include securing funding for health and physical education programs, supporting certification requirements for all PE instructors, and ensuring that PE is included as an indicator in New York State’s plan for education accountability. DASH-NY acknowledges the importance of physical education in promoting both physical and mental health in our students, and supports efforts to improve the quality and availability of PE across our state.

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