Since 3rd grade, my daughter has received a twice-yearly fitness assessment as part of her physical education program at school. It shows a breakdown of her cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and biometrics (height, weight, BMI). There are also indicators of how each of her results measure up against other girls her age, in a range from "very low fitness" to "very fit," and an overall fitness score.
Now if I had received something like this when I was her age, the results would have been pitiful and probably discouraging. But for my daughter, the reports are a source of pride. She likes seeing how she has progressed over time, and she's motivated to keep improving. Plus we have a clear picture of how much she's grown, how much weight she's gained, and whether her BMI is in the healthy range.
Yet most U.S. states do not require schools to provide this kind of assessment. The 2012 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA, released yesterday by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, provides a snapshot of how states stack up when it comes to PE. Some key excerpts:
- 38 states mandate physical education in elementary, middle/high, and high school. But most do not require a specific amount of instructional time. More than half allow exemptions, waivers, and/or substitutions.
- Almost half of U.S. students do not receive PE in an average week.
- Only 11 states prohibit the practice of withholding physical activity, including recess, as punishment and prohibit the use of physical activity as punishment for inappropriate behavior or for disciplinary reasons.
There's also a good discussion about physical activity at school going on over at our Kids Activities site, where Amanda Morin is discussing the practice of banning running (!) at recess. Head over there to take a poll and add your comments.