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More schools making PE optional

More schools making PE optional

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SALT LAKE CITY -- More and more states are making physical education optional, and some schools are even offering gym class online.

Lynn Couturier, president of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, says No Child Left Behind could be one reason. While it has many academic requirements for schools across the country, it doesn't require physical education.

From Shape of the Nation report:
  • Only five states require physical education in every grade K-12.
  • Only one state aligns with the nationally recommended 150 minutes per week of PE in elementary school and 225 minutes per week in middle and high school.
  • 32 states permit waivers and/or exemptions for students from taking PE, a 77% increase from 2006.
  • 48 states have their own state standards for physical education, but only 34 states require local districts to comply or align with those standards.
  • Only 19 states require some form of student assessment in physical education.
- Source: National Association for Sport and Physical Education

"It puts a lot of pressure on schools to try to meet those standards within the act," Couturier explained, "and sometimes physical education and other subjects that also are not listed as core subjects suffer from that."

Couturier said economic tough times make it more likely that schools choose to cut out the subjects not specifically mandated by No Child Left Behind or covered by standardized testing.

Only five states require P.E. from grades K through 12. Utah requires P.E. in grades K through 8, then for three years of high school, with students able to get exemptions only for medical reasons. They must also take a personal wellness course, "Fitness for Life," in order to graduate. However, Utah does offer some online credits for P.E. through the Utah Electronic High School.

Couturier's organization doesn't suggest online P.E. is a bad idea, just that it be done with careful consideration.

"Our national association actually recommends that if there is going to be online education, that it be a blended approach, that there's some in-face contact and some online work that kind of supplements those face-to-face meetings," Couturier said.

Couturier said many schools are also reducing access to unstructured play time through recess across the country.


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Becky Bruce


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