Loopholes in the legislations that govern state physical education requirements are cutting the legs off those mandates, according to the most recent Shape of the Nation Report.
The 2012 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA,released by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association, finds that while 74.5 percent of states mandate physical education in elementary through high school, most still fail to require a specific amount of instructional time, and nearly half allow exemptions, waivers and/or substitutions. These “loopholes” reduce the effectiveness of policy efforts to ensure the quality of school physical education.
“While other studies demonstrate the importance of quality physical education in helping students learn the necessary skills, knowledge and experiences they need to be physically active for a lifetime, the Shape of the Nation Report has been disclosing the inadequacies of physical education policies in this country since 1987,” said NASPE President Mary Jo Sariscsany. “It is time to eliminate the ‘loopholes.’ We urge parents to join our efforts to be more proactive and effective advocates for physical education to ensure that their children’s schools and school districts are complying with required state physical education policies. Every school should implement the recommendations outlined in this report.”
The report found that the majority of states mandate that students take physical education (43 states for elementary, 41 states for middle, and 44 states for high school). However, gaps exist in over half of these states. Thirty-three states permit schools and school districts to allow students to substitute other activities for their required physical education credit. Twenty-eight states allow schools or school districts to grant exemptions/waivers for physical education.
“The fact that kids are being deprived of physical education in school is unacceptable, especially in a nation suffering from a childhood obesity epidemic,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO. “Making physical activity a part of the daily routine is critical to saving the next generation of Americans from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other serious problems.”
The Shape of the Nation Report, which surveys physical education coordinators in all 50 state education agencies and the District of Columbia, raises awareness and provides data for an ongoing evaluation of the progress made and challenges that remain in physical education policies. The 2012 Shape of the Nationreport includes new elements that address the areas of school physical activity requirements such as recess, classroom physical activity breaks, the use of physical activity as punishment, support for the Safe Routes to School program and local school wellness policies.