The average 30 minute gym class features only about 11 minutes of physical activity. This doesn’t come close to meeting national recommendations for 60 minutes of activity each day.
And it’s led the state’s “Enhance P.E. Task Force” to urge big changes in the way gym is taught in Illinois with an aim of improving students’ physical and academic performances.
The recommendations, submitted Tuesday to the Illinois General Assembly, include shifting current physical education models from competitive, team game-based programs to those that emphasize individual improvement, health-related fitness goals and a lifetime love of physical activity. Think: less standing around learning about the rules of softball and more fast-paced circuit training.
Still, many would be pleased to see the state’s largest district, Chicago Public Schools, comply with current longstanding state requirements to simply offer P.E. classes daily. Instead of complying with this requirement, CPS offers P.E. only about once a week in many elementary schools. And despite requirements to at least apply for a waiver from the requirement (along with a plan for future compliance), the district has neither applied for the waiver nor will CPS representatives say when it plans to apply.
The task force’s new report says that there is currently “no data” on what and how much physical education districts are providing the state’s students today, but the the Illinois State Board of Education plans to compile and publish data on district and school level compliance by spring of 2014.
The report says that gathering these metrics, and others, will be an important part of assessing the effects of the recommendations.
In making the recommendations, the task force members highlighted several studies that show improved academic performance among students who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity programs. One 2013 Illinois study cited indicated that students who participated in a certain “cardiorespiratory fitness” program were more than twice as likely “to meet or exceed the Illinois Standard Achievement Test reading and math test requirements than those who” did not participate in the fitness program.
We discuss the topic and the new report with task force members, Illinois school officials and physical education teachers next week on The Afternoon Shift.
Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer. Follow her @monicaeng