It is amazing to me how good ideas, based on research, turn into bureaucratic mandates that eventually undo all good intentions. Nothing better exemplifies this than physical education. New York law makers and educators have long understood the connection between mind and body, and have put in place laws and rules to ensure that students get to move often in school. Yet this well intentioned notion has morphed into a series of disconnected rules for high school students that sometimes leave educational administrators confused about what is actually required. Add to that fact that many NYC schools recently created in the name of “small schools” lack appropriate facilities for phys ed, and have a mandate to have a specially certified teacher for every subject. The result is that many school leaders cannot even think about the intention of getting kids moving, and the strong correlation to student achievement. Many have no PE teachers on their faculty at all. School leaders quickly become lost trying to figure out exactly how many minutes each student must be in phys ed each week to earn the minimum number of credits to meet the state and city requirements, which are different. An NYC high school can offer a student daily PE classes, with a total of 180 minutes or more, for seven of the eight semesters the student is in high school (allowing for a semester of health), and award .58 credits per semester. Of course if you were in any district in New York other than NYC, the amount of credits would be different. OR, the NYC high school could elect to do PE every other day for a total of 90 minutes or more per week if they are on some kind of block schedule. In this case each student would be awarded .50 credit per semester, and each student would need to take PE all eight semesters, fitting in health some other way. Don’t do the math when trying to understand the credits. It doesn’t add up. Every other day is translated to 2 days in one semester, and 3 days in the opposite semester.
If a student fails a PE course, or just isn’t scheduled appropriately, the student can make it up later by doubling up. BUT, the student cannot accelerate in PE and take 2 courses in one year, in anticipation of a gap later. A 10th grader can count participation in a school sport - but only if it meets all of the required time in a particular semester - so if you participate in basketball, you may be out of luck since it crosses over 2 semesters. BUT, if you are in 9th grade and play 3 seasons of sports, you STILL must take PE during the regular school day, because students can’t opt out until 10th grade.
Instead of having state laws and regs, and local regs governing all of this, wouldn’t it be better to really focus on the connection between fitness and achievement? Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned to support students in their development of good habits in their lives, and provide them with access to facilities and programs to this end? It is time to look at ALL requirements, particularly in high schools, and free principals from burdensome mandates so they can truly focus on what it will take to prepare students for college and career. That will mean letting go of some controls in favor of true reform.