In an age of education reform that determines a school’s effectiveness based upon standardized test performance in literacy and math, many schools have reduced the time allotted to physical education theorizing that additional time spent on test preparation will yield higher test scores.
However, evidence proves otherwise. Schools that have preserved physical education perform as well, sometimes better, than those that have substituted additional test preparation for physical education (www.naspeinfo.org).
This revelation adds an important layer to the established correlation between the aerobic fitness and academic performance of school-aged students. Not only are fitter kids smarter kids, but schools that preserve physical education are smarter schools!
This take-away is strong advocacy for how school-based physical education can contribute to the optimal wellbeing of school-aged students. Given its grounding in physical activity, the health-related physical benefit is well documented (www.thecommunityguide.org/pa/pa-ajpm-evrev.pdf). The new news is evidence indicating the degree to which physical activity uniquely and profoundly also fosters cognitive (and emotional) benefit.
With schools under increasing pressure to address the developmental needs of the whole child AND account for academic performance, the benefit-cost ratio of zeroing or reducing physical education overwhelmingly skews as a bad investment. Any reduction is simply counterintuitive to students’ physical and cognitive development.
Parents often offer the loudest voice pertaining to school curricular decisions. Embrace the opportunity to influence policy that WILL make a difference. After all, none of us would disagree that our children deserve optimum opportunity to develop to their fullest capacity!
For more information about how to organize an effort to groundswell support for physical education or initiate your own advocacy, please see www.aahperd.org/naspe/advocacy/governmentRelations/toolkit.cfm.