School P.E. programs hurt by loopholes in state laws


(Toni L. Sandys-Washington Post)

At a time when young Americans are fatter than ever, a new report says that the effectiveness of physical education programs in public schools is being watered down by loopholes in state laws. It also says that 30 states allow students to earn physical education credits by taking online phys ed courses. 

The report provides some shocking statistics about overweight America, such as these: 

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more…

The report, titled “2012 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA” and released jointly by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association, says that in the absence of any federal law requiring physical education in public schools, nearly 85 percent of states mandate some physical education for some students. But, more than half of all states permit school districts and schools to grant exemptions to students that allow them to substitute other activities for participation, including marching band, cheerleading and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Meanwhile, states have their own standards for phys ed, but only 76 percent require local districts to comply with those standards.

Some states allow schools to withhold physical activity from children, including recess, as a disciplinary measure, and others don’t have a mandated teacher-student ratio for physical education comparable to other subjects.

Then there’s this: 30 states allow students to earn physical education credits by taking online phys ed courses — and only 17 of those states require that those online courses are taught by state-certified physical education instructors. 

The report says that young Americans lead largely sedentary lives: “Most kids under age 18 spend the majority of their day sitting in classrooms and a big part of their free time outside of school watching television, playing sedentary video games or surfing the Internet. A required physical education period assures that, at a minimum, they’ll get at least a portion of the recommended physical activity in a day.”

Here are some of the facts cited in the report:

Overweight Among Youths

 ■ In 2009-2010, 9.7% of infants and toddlers had a high weight-for-recumbent length.
■ In 2009-2010, 16.9% of children and adolescents from two through 19 years of age were obese.
■ There was a significant increase in BMI among adolescent males aged 12 through 19 years, but not among any other age group or among females.
■ Childhood obesity continues to increase in some countries, while in other countries and U.S. demographic groups it has apparently plateaued.
■ Some have suggested that the prevalence of obesity among children will reach 30% by 2030. However recent data presented herein suggest that the rapid increases in obesity prevalence seen in the 1980s and 1990s have not continued in this decade and may be leveling off.
■ During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States, and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more.

 

Expenditures on Physical Education

■ The median physical education budget for schools in the United States is only $764 per school year ($460 for elementary, $900 for middle, and $1,370 for high schools), and 61% of physical education teachers report an annual budget of under $1,000. Only 15% report funding of $2,000 or more.
■ “School budget” is the most-cited source for program funding (64%), followed by school district budget (38%), PTA/PTO (34%), and grant programs (28%).
■ It is estimated that obesity will cost the United States $344 billion in medical-related expenses by 2018, about 21% of our nation’s health-care spending.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local
Next Story
Valerie Strauss · November 14, 2012