Making Physical Education Part of the Core Curriculum & Part of the School Day

September 20, 2010

By Alex Schaible, HSC Writer & Policy Analyst

   Basketball

As concerns over childhood obesity and diabetes continue to increase, it is more important than ever for students to make physical activity a part of their daily lives.  Physical activity during the school day not only keeps kids healthier, but also helps them academically and socially.   Unfortunately, even though the benefits of physical activity in schools are clear, in this era of standardized testing and No Child Left Behind, physical education is rarely made a priority.

We now have a chance to change this!  The upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, the act currently known as No Child Left Behind) is a great chance for the Department of Education to acknowledge the importance of physical activity in schools by including physical education as a core subject.  Placing physical education on par with math and reading will send a strong message to school boards and education policy makers that the federal government considers PE essential to a well-rounded curriculum.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), along with advocates across the country, are leading the effort to get PE defined as a core subject as a part of the reauthorization. NASPE highlights the benefits of expanding core subjects to include physical education:

  • Only teachers in core subjects are required to be highly qualified—they must hold a bachelor's degree, full state certification, and demonstrated competence in each content area taught
  • Highly qualified teachers are held accountable for subject matter and helping students achieve competence in each subject area
  • Professional development is geared toward teachers of core subjects
  • States are required to have academic content standards for curriculum development
  • States hold students accountable for mastering content in core subjects

Inclusion of PE as a core subject means more quality physical education programs for students across the country.  Currently, the reauthorization of ESEA does not list physical education as a core subject; however, last month, Senator Tom Udall introduced the PHYSICAL Act, which, if passed, would designate physical education as a core subject within ESEA.  

It is now time to take action and raise your voice in support of this important bill.  You can contact your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor the PHYSICAL Act using the action alert created by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) located here.

Supporting this legislation will send a strong message that physical activity is a priority for our nation’s children and a necessary step towards protecting their current and future health.

For more information about what constitutes a core subject and evidence of how physical education meets this definition, check out “Physical Education as an Academic Subject”, a new paper developed by NASPE to assist individuals in their advocacy efforts.