Physical Education (P.E.)

by Carlie

**The cutting of/loss of funding for physical education, or PE classes, in order to spend more time and money in attempts to raise test scores and obtain additional funding.**

A brief overview of the physical education argument:

1.  The No Child Left Behind Act places increased emphasis on reading and math, since are those are the subjects tested and judged.  Based on performance of schools in these subjects, the federal government provides funding.  P.E. is one of the disciplines that have been sacrificed and cut to make more time for more “academic” studies.

2. Studies have shown that P.E. programs in schools and physical activity actually may improve test scores, classroom behavior, and overall health.

3. There are health problems amongst the youth such as the skyrocketing rate of childhood obesity and childhood diabetes that are directly related to the cutting of P.E.  These children are also at risk for developing other health issues such as heart disease, hypertension, type II diabetes, cancer, depression, and premature death.

4. Best solution- DO NOT CUT P.E. It costs more to reintroduce/start a program ($500,000) than to just maintain it and the benefits are obvious.

5.  Other solutions include fundraising to raise additional money for schools, tax hikes to provide funding for P.E., and using the integrated approach to teaching which teaches students while they “move” and participate in physical activity.

Children are becoming obese at an alarming rate; there is no denying it.  The National Center for Health Statistics released data in 2005 that demonstrated that 30% of children ages 6-19 were considered overweight and 15% were obese.  In the midst of this epidemic, schools, especially elementary schools, have been cutting their physical education (P.E.) classes.  Because of a lack of funding, schools have opted to remove P.E. from their curriculum, which is a huge problem that needs to be addressed immediately.  Schools need to re-implement P.E. into their curriculum if they have already cut it, or need to redistribute their funds to ensure that it stays part of the curriculum.  I propose that funding for P.E. is not sacrificed.

This issue first started with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.  According to the article “Why We Should Not Cut P.E.,” classes considered “extra” such as physical education, art, and music.   This has created the idea that art, music, and physical education classes are secondary to the core curriculum and thus expendable. The No Child Left Behind Act based schools federal funding on their standardized test scores and yearly progress in math and reading.  Since physical education is not “tested” in these standardized tests, it has become a lower priority to more academic curriculum.  Schools believe that the more time spent on academic subjects, then the higher the test scores.  Although this belief is becoming more widespread and cutting P.E. is becoming more accepted among the schools, it is being proven inaccurate by many studies.  Studies have taken place throughout the country from California to Massachusetts, Virginia to Michigan, and even Australia and Canada according to “Why We Should Not Cut P.E.”  It was found that across the board, no matter the study, students who received ample or increased P.E. classes had no adverse affects on their test scores, and in most cases there was actually an increased performance in the classroom as well as achieving higher scores on standardized tests.   These physical activity breaks improved “on-task behavior” by as much as 20% in some students.  In the study performed by Sherman, Tran, and Alves, a positive correlation was found between academic performance and physical fitness.  This study focused on teaching what they called “quality” physical education to students based on the curriculum developed by developmentally appropriate physical education (DAPE).  As a result of the study, it was concluded that students demonstrated better classroom behavior and less weight issues when exposed to physical education.  Teachers agreed that physical activity was important for the curriculum. 

Increased test scores, better classroom behavior and increased overall health were all benefits found in these studies.  Research by Nanci Hellmich explains that “increased time in P.E. classes can help children’s attention, concentration and achievement scores.”  It can also improve the grade point average and improve the chance of graduating at the high school level.  The Sherman, Tran, and Alves study showed an increase in mental health of the students, mentioning there was an increase in the confidence of the students and it encouraged positive competitiveness.  In the article “Integration: Helping to Get Our Kids Moving and Learning,” many physiological benefits of having P.E. classes and physical activity a part of the curriculum were described.  For starters, physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which in turn carries more oxygen and nutrients to the brain for it to perform at optimal function.  There are also more neurons in the brain, which can exchange information with one another allowing us to “understand, comprehend, remember, and retrieve more information and at a quicker rate.”  This new information is also more strongly engrained in the brain as a result of increased activity allowing it to be more permanent.  Exercise helps reduce stress, which allows for better problem solving, judging, planning, etc. since there is no cortisol, a chemical produced as a result of stress, circulating the body. 

There are all of these benefits that result from children having P.E. and increased exercise, including just generally promoting a healthy lifestyle.  However, since P.E. has been cut in elementary schools across the country, many unwanted and harmful health problems have arisen in America’s youth and become an area of concern.  Childhood obesity is now one of the most serious health issues and because of that there is an increase in childhood diabetes.  The study by Sherman, Tran, and Alves mention that overweight and obese children are at risk for developing many mental health and physical health issues including, but not limited to, “heart disease, hypertension, type II diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, depression, low self-esteem… and premature death.”  P.E. promotes a healthy lifestyle and without it, children may have to face serious medical conditions.

The main reason that schools have been cutting their curriculum is a lack of monetary resources.  They need increased federal funding or better distribution of their funds.  According to an article from CBS News titled “Obesity Up, Phys Ed Down,” it takes 500,000 to start a P.E. program.  If it costs that much to start one, why remove it from the curriculum? It would be more appropriate to redistribute funds in order to maintain an existing program, since P.E. increases test scores, which increases federal funding.  Parents also pose a problem on schools “tight budgets” according to the article “Phys Ed Redux.”  Parents want classes that look better on college applications, such as AP, and the more academic curriculum to educate their children to make them more competitive as well as foreign languages and music classes.  They want their children to be well rounded and multi-dimensional yet do not take into consideration the available funding, so they too opt to remove physical education, placing too much on academics. 

The best possible solution is obviously not to cut P.E.  Funding can be altered in order to allow the maintenance of the existing programs since physical education is important to the health of children, especially of the elementary age.  They essentially bring in revenue and funding since they help increase standardized test scores, so they are beneficial to keep.  There are also many other potential solutions that have already started to take effect throughout the country that are an alternative to both the P.E. programs and the funding.  “Obesity Up, Phys Ed Down” focuses on a high school in Massachusetts called Bridgewater-Raynham High School.  At that specific high school, parents of the students have raised over $150,000 to give to the athletic department.  Parental help can be crucial, as well as making the issue important enough for the state to mandate the reinstatement of physical education programs.  Federal government grants totaling over $15 million dollars have been given to community programs and schools across the nation according to the ABC News article “No Sweat When Gym Class Cut”, so better budgeting and distribution of wealth may need to occur.  Tax hikes could also help solve at least a portion of the funding issue that is resulting of the cutting of physical education.  Teachers could also be taught to be P.E. teachers and learn “quality” physical activity, which is more structured, however that is obviously not as effective as having a trained P.E. teacher.  Before and after school programs ran by volunteers could help alleviate the problem as well.  Finally the idea of integration from the article “Integration: Helping to Get Our Kids Moving and Learning” incorporates the idea of regular classroom teachers integrating physical education in with their core curriculum so students get their daily activity.  By reinforcing academic material with physical activity, the students are taught with multiple learning styles including “verbal instruction, visual demonstrations, and kinesthetic learning styles.”  The students learn by moving essentially, which increases memory since the cerebellum processes both movement and learning.  It helps solidify the information.  Again, this is productive if P.E. is not an option, but not as effective as actual P.E. classes.

Clearly, there is a huge dilemma being faced by schools, especially at the elementary school level.  As a result of tight budgets and a need for federal funding, schools have focused on academic curriculum and disregard P.E. as nonessential, which is far from the truth.  P.E. helps promote a healthy lifestyle, helps students concentrate, and helps students perform better in the classroom and on standardized tests.  There are possible solutions, such as fundraising and integration, but none are as effective as P.E. KEEP P.E. IN THE SCHOOLS!

Work Cited:

Brink, Susan. “Phys Ed Redux.” U.S. News & World Report 132.19 (2002): 50. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.

Dakss, Brian. “Obesity Up, Phys Ed Down.” CBSNews.com. 27 Jan 2005. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/27/earlyshow/contributors/debbyeturner/main669760.shtml&gt;

Hall, Erin M. “Integration: Helping to Get Our Kids Moving and Learning.” Physical Educator 64.3 (2007): 123-128. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.

Hellmich, Nanci. “Research: Physical activity can boost academic performance.” USA Today n.d.: Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.

Sealey, Geraldine. “Just Do It? Many Schools Cutting Gym Class.” ABCNews.com. 30 Sept. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. <http://www.ihpra.org/ABCNEWS_com%20%20No%20Sweat%20When% 20Gym%20Class%20Cut.htm>

Sherman, Clay P., Cynthia Tran, and Yara Alves. “Elementary School Classroom Teacher Delivered Physical Education: Costs, Benefits and Barriers.” Physical Educator 67.1 (2010): 2-17. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.

Trost, Stewart G., and Hans Van Der Mars. “Why We Should Not Cut P.E.” Educational Leadership 67.4 (2009): 60-65. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.

 Visual Argument:

http://postbulletin.typepad.com/education_notebook/adequate-yearly-progress/

http://crusader.blog.co.uk/2009/10/07/fat-kids-to-be-banned-from-school-7118950/

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