Physical Education Is a Right: The Los Angeles Unified School District Case Study Assessment, Implementation and Impact

Posted: October 26th, 2011

Haga aquí para ver el reporte La Educación Física es un Derecho: Estudio de Caso del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles  en Español.

“It’s a joy to see kids be out doing different things like learning rules for foursquare, hopscotsch and doing different relays at basketball. I love seeing the variety that teachers are now using from the PE sessions we did at staff meetings.”

Samuels & Associates and The City Project present the Policy Report Physical Education is a Right: The Los Angeles Unified School District Case Study (2011). The Report assesses the implementation and impact of the plan adopted by the district in response to an organizing and legal campaign to provide quality physical education under education and civil rights laws.

The physical education campaign and plan in the district, including coalition building, translating social science research into action, media, advocacy outside the courts, and the possibility of access to justice through the courts, are replicable in other school districts throughout the state and nation.

In California, public schools are required by law to provide physical education for at least 20 minutes on average per day in elementary schools, and at least 40 minutes on average per day in middle and high schools. Physical education is good policy and good law: physical education gets students physically active; helps reduce obesity; promotes the sound development of the child; prepares students with the skills, knowledge and confidence to be physically active throughout their lives; and can contribute to academic performance and positive behavior in and out of school.

Yet of over 1,000 public school districts in the state, 188 were audited from 2004-­09 and exactly half were not enforcing physical education minute requirements.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the largest public school district in California and the second largest in the nation, was audited several times between 2004 and 2009, and each audit found that the district did not enforce physical education minute requirements. The district serves over 670,000 K-­12 students in over 900 schools. 92% are students of color, and 74% are low income (qualify for free or reduced-­price meals). Obesity rates in the district were persistently higher than the obesity rates of other districts within the county. 75% of district students failed to pass all six tests on the state Fitnessgram exam in the 2008/2009 school year. Some schools in the district such as Norwood Elementary have fully embraced quality physical education and have achieved higher Academic Performance Index scores.

In 2007, a diverse coalition of teachers, parents, community activists, health advocates, attorneys and school officials united in a strategic campaign to improve the quantity and quality of physical education in the district and alleviate health disparities. The district adopted a physical education implementation plan to enforce physical education and civil rights principles and laws, based in significant part on the social science research documenting the value of physical education, as well as health disparities.

This policy report describes the strategic campaign, and evaluates the impact after the first year of the plan. Subsequent research will report on the impact of the plan over the course of several years.

“The message you send to the public and parents if you don’t enforce the law is that children don’t matter. Standing up for children by actively enforcing the law on their behalf was crucial.”

The Report and physical education plan will be discussed at the American Public Health Association conference October 31:

“The physical education plan adopted by the Los Angeles Unified School District is a best practice example for districts across the state to provide a quality education for the children of California,” according to Dr. Robert Ross, President of the California Endowment. “Research tells us physically active and fit kids get better grades and have better overall health.”

Click here to see  Physical Education is a Right: The Los Angeles Unified School District Case Study policy brief in English.

Haga aquí para ver el reporte La Educación Física es un Derecho: Estudio de Caso del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles  en Español.

The complete policy applying physical education laws, as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, California Government Code Section 11135, and applicable regulations, is available by clicking here.

The administrative complaint filed September 22, 2008, is available by clicking here.