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December 11, 2008

 

DiNapoli: Elementary School Students Are Not Getting

Required Physical Education

A sampling of school districts across New York State indicates that elementary school students are not receiving State-required physical education classes, according to an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. According to the audit, schools are generally meeting State physical education requirements for middle and high school students, but are falling short for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. In October, DiNapoli issued a report on the fiscal cost of New York’s childhood obesity crisis.

“Obesity affects more than a million young New Yorkers and costs the State $242 million in public and private medical expenses each year,” DiNapoli said. “And those costs grow exponentially to nearly $6.1 billion for obese adults. Good phys ed classes mean better health for kids and less money spent on medical expenses. Our schools should be investing in physical education now so we can lower health care costs later.”

According to State Education Department regulations, boards of education are responsible for developing and implementing school district plans to provide physical education to their students. Regulations also detail the minimum frequency and duration of physical education classes required at each grade level.

“New York State has enacted some of the strongest physical education requirements in the nation," said Nancy Huehnergarth, Director of New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance. “If we hope to reverse our epidemic of childhood obesity, schools must comply at every level. Another benefit of compliance- research shows that kids who are physically active achieve at higher levels academically.”

The DiNapoli audit found that 18 of the 20 districts audited did not meet minimum regulations for grades K through 3. On average students in these grades were offered only 48 percent of the required classes and 72 percent of the required class time. Only one school district audited was found to be in full compliance with SED regulations. The audit also found:

  • Sixteen of the twenty districts did not meet minimum regulations for grades 4 and 5 and on average these students were offered only 74 percent of the required classes and 77 percent of the required class time;
  • Seventeen districts were not meeting the minimum regulations for grade 6 with students offered about 85 percent of the required classes and class time;
  • School districts generally provided older students with required physical education classes, but three school districts also inappropriately offered students in grades 10 through 12 “wellness” classes as a substitute for physical education;
  • School districts did not prepare written physical education plans and/or file the plans with SED as required.

The audit recommends that school districts bring the physical education programs into compliance with the SED regulations, as well as prepare and file required plans with SED. It also recommends that districts work with SED to develop a monitoring component. The districts generally agree with the audit findings and recommendations, and have begun taking actions to implement the changes. The breakdown of district responses is included in the audit.

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