Assessing District Administrators' Perceptions of Elementary School Physical Education

By Sallis, James F.; McKenzie, Thomas L. et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, October 1996 | Go to article overview

Assessing District Administrators' Perceptions of Elementary School Physical Education


Sallis, James F., McKenzie, Thomas L., Kolody, Bohdan, Curtis, Philip, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Improving the quantity and quality of physical education has been a goal of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and other professional organizations for many years (AAHPERD, 1994). Recently, the U.S. Public Health Service (1991) joined in this effort by including two goals related to the conduct of physical education in its year 2000 health objectives for the nation. There is broad agreement on the improvements that need to be made. Physical education needs to be taught more frequently (AAHPERD, 1990, 1994; U.S. Public Health Service, 1991) by qualified instructors, students need to spend more class time being physically active (McKenzie et al., 1995; U.S. Public Health Service, 1991) and engaged in more lifetime fitness activities (Corbin, 1994), and programs should promote lifetime physical activity (Pate & Hohn, 1994a, 1994b).

There is less agreement on how to accomplish these improvements. As Pate and Hohn (1994b) summarized the situation, "Goal clear, strategy uncertain" (p. 216). Understanding the perceptions and motivations of people who make decisions that affect physical education is a good place to start when deciding how to make changes.

Although parents, teachers, principals, and school board members are part of the decision-making process, excellent physical education programs cannot survive without multiple types of administrative support (Butler & Mergardt, 1994). District administrators make decisions that affect physical education every day of the school year, including decisions about funding, staffing, and program philosophy. Efforts to influence support for high-quality physical education are more likely to be successful if they are based on information about factors that motivate the district administrators. Thus, we conducted a survey study to (1) assess district administrators' satisfaction with current elementary physical education programs, (2) identify factors that may influence their decisions to make improvements in programs, and (3) assess their readiness to adopt improved programs. Because the survey was conducted in California, one of the 36 states that permit physical education to be taught by nonspecialists (National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 1994), the results are particularly relevant to creating change in districts where classroom teachers are responsible for physical education.

Method

Procedure. School districts with more than 1,000 children in grades 1 through 8 in the 10 most populous counties in California were identified from the statewide directory (California Department of Education, 1992). Of these, 110 districts were selected at random using a sampling procedure whereby the larger the district, the higher the probability it would be selected. Letters were sent to the superintendents of these selected districts in early 1993 inviting them to participate in the study. The letter indicated that participation by their district was voluntary and that a research assistant would follow up with a telephone call in approximately two weeks. Superintendents were informed that if they participated, either they or the highest-ranking district official who had direct authority over elementary school physical education would be interviewed by telephone. As an incentive to participate, respondents were informed that they would receive the results of the study as well as information on high-quality elementary school physical education programs published by AAHPERD.

Three senior level college students conducted the interviews. They were given telephone interview training which included at least two hours on techniques, etiquette, and procedures for obtaining responses in a professional manner. They also completed mock interviews and received feedback before initiating the study.

Response rate, respondents, and districts. Eighty interviews were completed, yielding a response rate of 72. …

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