Failure to comply with physical education laws harms fitness, hurts low income, of color students most

Posted: June 15th, 2012

Elementary school students in districts that did not comply with minutes requirements were more likely to be Hispanic or black and less likely to be white or Asian.  Schools in compliant districts included significantly smaller percentages of low income students than schools in noncompliant districts, according to recent study.

Physical education policies have received increased attention as a means for improving physical activity levels, enhancing physical fitness, and contributing to childhood obesity prevention and academic performance, retention and graduation.  But half the schools audited in California did not comply with physical education laws requiring an average of 20 minutes of physical education per day in elementary school and 40 minutes in middle and high school.

According to the study of elementary schools, students in policy-compliant districts were more likely than students in noncompliant districts to meet or exceed physical fitness standards. On average, schools in compliant districts included significantly smaller percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals and were located in census tracts with lower percentages of college-graduate adults and slightly higher median annual house-hold incomes. Compared with students in compliant districts, those in noncompliant districts were more likely to be Hispanic or black and less likely to be white or Asian. Policy mandates may contribute to improvements in fitness levels, but their success is likely to depend on mechanisms to ensure compliance.

The study Physical Education Policy Compliance and Children’s Physical Fitness is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has adopted a policy to comply with physical education and equal justice laws in response to an organizing and legal campaign.  Click here to learn more about the implementation and impact of the physical education policy, which Dr. Robert Ross of the California Endowment has called “a best practice example for districts across the state to provide a quality education for the children of California. Research tells us physically active and fit kids get better grades and have better overall health.”

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

Photo by Tim Wagner and Partnership for the Public’s Health.