ESSA Drives New Approaches to Physical Education

By Bendici, Ray | District Administration, January 2018 | Go to article overview

ESSA Drives New Approaches to Physical Education


Bendici, Ray, District Administration


School districts are elevating physical education standards and expanding athletic activities beyond traditional sports to provide a more well-rounded education as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Instead of old favorites such as dodgeball and basketball, many districts have introduced more individually focused activities such as rock climbing, cross-training and yoga.

"We are seeing new physical education now because the ultimate goal is to prepare students to be active and healthy for a lifetime," says Carly Wright, senior manager of advocacy for SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators. "Most adults who stay physically active don't participate in team sports, so the goal is to expose students to as many different kinds of physical activities as possible."

States addressing chronic absenteeism in federal accountability plans should consider that healthier, active students are more likely to attend school, says Wright.

Approaches vary

ESSA has shifted control over physical education and fitness to the states, resulting in a wide range of interpretations and standards. Connecticut, Vermont and Michigan, for example, now include physical education or fitness in federal accountability plans.

Vermont's new statewide physical education assessment is based around FitnessGram, a noncompetitive tool that measures students against a predetermined healthy fitness zone. The tool--which tracks aerobic capacity, muscular strength, flexibility and other components--is being field-tested this academic year before formal statewide adoption next year.

Wright suggests using these assessment tools to show students how to improve their fitness levels, but not as the sole basis for grades or teacher accountability.

Michigan has designed state standards for motor skill development and a healthy lifestyle. …

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