Physical education (PE) programs have been under siege for years. As reported in the National Conference of State Legislatures, the number of states mandating daily physical education for grades K-12 remains low with only two states requiring K-12 PE in 2005. In 2007 it was reported that only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools and 2% of high schools required daily physical education for all students for the entire year (Pangrazi 2010). One of the backlashes of these policies is an increase in the number of students who are physically inactive with a concomitant increase in the number of children who are overweight and obese (Booth and Chakravarthy 2002; Pangrazi 2010; Weiss 2000).
A syndrome named Sedentary Death Syndrome (SeDS) by Researchers against Inactivity related Diseases' (RID) suggests sedentary behavior has become the second greatest risk to public health behind cigarettes and tobacco (Booth and Chakravarthy 2002). Effective physical education programs may be part of the solution. A review article by Strong et al. (2005) concluded that physical education classes should be daily with at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity that is developmentally appropriate. Effective physical education programs designed to teach and encourage lifelong activity, as well as an understanding of the consequences of inactivity might make a difference (Carrel et al. 2005; Pangrazi 2010). Research is needed that shows this can be accomplished in our schools and at the same time effective evaluation that is able to identify intension for activity throughout life must be developed.
Physical Education in the Twenty-first Century
One barrier to effective physical education in schools is competition for limited funding. With the advent of the Carol M. White PEP (Physical Education Programs) grants in 2001 school districts found at least one focused avenue for much needed support. Curriculums are being reinvented, teachers are working together and receiving additional training, and the equipment everyone so desperately needs is being provided. To maintain this momentum it is essential that those receiving the funds include evaluation of the programs to determine effectiveness (Wirszyla 2002). If that does not occur we know that legislators will not be convinced that requiring quality physical education programs makes fiscal sense and they will continue to deplete the already meager funds available to support the programs.
When most states were requiring daily physical education in the 1950s many curricula followed the multi-sport model at high school benefiting those students interested in competitive sports (Pangrazi 2010). For students interested in mastery of non-competitive, lifetime activities, training was either non-existent or inadequate. The curricula were not comprehensive and lacked the articulation necessary to graduate students with proficient skill levels to be active for a lifetime (Corbin 2002; Pangrazi 2003; Pangrazi 2010). Fortunately, curricula are changing and "New PE" is becoming a reality. State and federal agencies have set standards and physical education teachers are trying to reverse the trends we are seeing of physical inactivity and obesity in our youth.
Spokane Public School's Solution
In 1998 a cohort of Spokane physical education teachers began writing a developmentally appropriate curriculum designed to meet the benchmarks of Washington State standards (See Appendix A). Following three years of partial implementation and re-evaluation thanks to PEP grant funding the complete written curriculum, "Fit for the Future," was implemented during the 2004-2005 school year. The curriculum framework is divided into three major components to meet the Washington State assessment standards. These areas are fitness content (50% of curriculum time); health promotion and maintenance (30% of curriculum time); and structure and function of movement (20% of curriculum time). …