From Zero to 74: CPS High Schools Doing PE

May 20, 2015

How CPS high schools are doing implementing daily PE.

This school year, thanks to a policy passed last January by the Chicago Board of Education, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) adopted a new Physical Education (PE) Policy making physical education a core subject. The policy requires high-quality daily PE for all students, giving physical education the importance it deserves and ensuring that students receive the significant benefits of daily exercise.

Despite Illinois state policy requiring daily physical education (PE) for all students, from 1997 through last school year, high schools in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have been exempt from that requirement. In fact, until this school year, CPS high school juniors and seniors didn’t even have the option to take PE.

But that all changed last year when CPS adopted a new policy that made PE a core subject and requires high-quality PE for all students — even at the high school level. Since the implementation of the PE policy, CPS reports that 74 percent of juniors and seniors are enrolled in daily PE, with the remaining 26 percent using allowable waivers to participate in programs such as Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and school sports, or for required academic courses or special education services. That’s a large increase compared to the percentage of juniors and seniors who were enrolled in PE a few years ago, said Antonio Marquez, the physical education coordinator at the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness.

The biggest challenge CPS faces when implementing PE is space, but Marquez said schools are using this to offer courses in the high school course catalog that can be held in smaller spaces such as dance studios or classrooms.

And those happen to be some of the most popular classes. “Students have stated that they prefer to take a dance course as opposed to playing football and basketball all the time,” Marquez said. “Students have shared that although they are working harder due to the emphasis on fitness and wellness as opposed to sport-related skills, they still prefer the current model compared to what they were doing before.”

CPS is also seeing a large increase in the number of PE teachers who attend the district-wide professional development opportunities. These events are designed to provide teachers with the most up-to-date strategies, techniques and content to improve their PE instruction. CPS’ annual Back to School professional development session typically draws 700 PE teachers.

Healthy Schools Campaign is supporting CPS by helping schools implement the new PE policy by working with school leaders — parents, teachers, and principals — to raise awareness of the importance of daily PE and to help galvanize resources at the district and school levels to help schools bridge the gap as they adjust to the new policy. Through our Fit to Learn professional development program, we’re working with teachers and principals to ensure daily PE focuses on engaging all students in physical activity to build lifelong healthy habits.