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No Educator Left Behind is a series providing answers from the U.S. Department of Education to questions about the federal No Child Left Behind Act and how it will affect educators. If you have a question about No Child Left Behind, send an e-mail to Ellen Delisio, and we will submit your question to the Department of Education.

QUESTION:

Did the creators of No Child Left Behind foresee the repercussions of schools cutting health and PE due to the pressure to improve reading and math scores? What plans are in effect to help control the rising obesity problem in our country?

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION:

It is possible for schools to offer physical education, arts, and other classes while ensuring that their students reach grade level in reading and math. In fact, thousands of schools are proving it every day, meeting their adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals without sacrificing these important courses.

For example, under Pennsylvania law, students in all grades are required to take physical education, and that has not changed with the passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Meanwhile, academic performance continues to rise. Sixty-nine percent of Pennsylvania's fifth graders were proficient or advanced in math last year, up from 53 percent in 2001-02; for reading, 64 percent made the grade, compared to 57 percent four years ago.

As for childhood obesity, I agree that it is a serious challenge, and we're working to address it. The President recently signed a federal law requiring all K-12 districts that receive federal funds for free or reduced-price lunches to offer wellness programs to their students. And in 2004-05, the Department of Education awarded more than 230 grants worth nearly $69 million to school districts to help them improve their schools' physical education programs.

Read previous questions and answers in our No Educator Left Behind archive.

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