National Physical Education Standards: A Summary of Student Performance and Its Correlates

By Erwin, Heather E.; Castelli, Darla M. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, December 2008 | Go to article overview

National Physical Education Standards: A Summary of Student Performance and Its Correlates


Erwin, Heather E., Castelli, Darla M., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


This study was one of the first to examine elementary student performance on the first four national standards for physical education (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 2004). Motor skill competency, strategic knowledge, physical activity, and physical fitness measures were collected from fourth- and fifth-grade students (N = 180) in the midwestern United States. Students demonstrated difficulty in attaining all four standards, particularly physical activity. Both personal demographics and physical attributes influenced performance. In particular, gender was a correlate of motor competency. Although the expectations may not be attainable at given times because of developmental differences, the study results provide some support for the value of guiding students to competency in all standards, as opposed to a single expectation. These findings also suggest continued use of the standards as a framework for physical education. Further research is warranted to explain student performance levels and develop effective methods for competency.

Key words: motor skills, physical activity, physical fitness, strategic knowledge

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Physical inactivity among American youth has con tributed to the public health burden of overweight and obesity in our nation, as health care costs have steadily risen (Wolf, Manson, & Colditz, 2003). Given the current patterns of physical inactivity among Americans, this trend is likely to continue well into the future (Chenowith & Leutzinger, 2006). Increased risk for disease resulting from physical inactivity is frequently related to overweight and obesity. Children's regular engagement in organized sports and physical education has steadily declined (Dollman, Norton, & Norton, 2005), while measures of body mass index (BMI) have risen (Ogden, Flegal, Carroll, &Johnson, 2002). Understanding physical activity patterns in children is important, as they are likely to be the first generation to experience a shorter life expectancy due to the increased prevalence of obesity-related diseases (Olshansky et al., 2005).

Physical education can formally educate children about the health risks and ways to achieve regular physical activity engagement (Tappe & Burgeson, 2004). Because students spend much time in school, there is a call for physical education teachers and school leaders to take responsibility for educating students about physical activity and fitness (Pate et al., 2006; Sallis & McKenzie, 1991). Particularly, it is hypothesized that enrollment in a quality physical education program will help students meet national physical education standards by providing content that promotes physical activity across the lifespan (National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 2004). Developed by a task force in 1995, content standards and sample performance outcomes identify what a student should know and be able to achieve in relation to motor performance, knowledge of movement concepts and strategies, physical activity engagement, physical fitness, and personal and social responsibility, thus serving as a baseline of competencies for all students. Performance outcomes represent a minimum expectation of what a student should attain across specific grade levels. It is believed that if students are competent in each standard, their risk for disease will be reduced. Despite the national physical education standards, there is little empirical evidence that a quality program will help students attain the desired performance outcomes. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the progress of fourth- and fifth-grade students toward performance outcomes. In an era of standards-based accountability, this study sought to understand student behaviors in attaining performance outcomes in quality physical education programs.

In the United States, A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110, 2002) were the most recent comprehensive efforts in education reform. …

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