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California Endowment Physical Education Matters and Failing Fitness

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This blog post presents three reports from the California Endowment.

There is unprecedented need to reform physical education (PE) in California’s schools. High levels of obesity and diabetes and low fitness levels in California children, particularly in Latino, African American and Native American youth, indicate the need for our schools to make PE a priority. Action to improve the quantity and quality of PE should be guided by the best available evidence. Quality PE meets state standards and ensures adequate physical activity. This report identifies several areas in which California PE is serving children poorly and summarizes research on effective strategies to improve PE. There are many opportunities for improving PE, but they require policy and practice changes at the state, district, and school levels. We hope this information will be helpful to educators, health professionals, lawmakers, parents, and other groups working to improve PE for the benefit of children’s health and education.

(1) The full report available by clicking the image above is an expanded 2008 version of (2) the brief published by the California Endowment in 2007.

Key findings reported in (3) the 2007 brief Failing Fitness indicate that PE quantity and quality have declined, and may adversely affect the learning environment, especially in low-income schools:
• Elementary schools are not providing the required number of minutes for PE.
• Most time during PE is spent being sedentary; only four minutes of every half hour
involves vigorous activity.
• Bigger class sizes translate to less active PE classes on average; students in classes with more than 45 students are half as active as students in smaller classes.
• Students in lower income schools spend less time being active in PE.
• Level of activity in PE, not total PE time, is linked to student fitness levels.
• Higher levels of activity in PE are associated with better academic performance.