Monday, January 29, 2007



01/28/07 - The dismal data came in November, revealing California's public school students performed poorly on the state's physical fitness test. This week, The California Endowment has released a report documenting what they call "a crisis in California school physical education."

The study conducted in 77 public schools, found that on average, only four minutes of every half hour of physical education class involves vigorous physical activity. In addition, elementary schools surveyed fell 32 minutes short on average of the required 200 minutes of minimum physical education mandated to occur every 10 days by state law.

"In order to combat California's child obesity epidemic, we must make physical education a higher priority in California's schools," said Dr. Robert K. Moss, president and CEO of The California Endowment.

Of the 77 schools surveyed, including schools in 11 Bay Area elementary school districts, only Palo Alto Unified in Santa Clara and Oak Grove Elementary in Sonoma made the grade for their physical fitness performance.

Upon reviewing results of the state physical fitness exam in November, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said California physical fitness scores "show a modest 1 percent gain in overall performance compared to last year's results.''

O'Connell said, "These numbers tell us that too many of our students are leading sedentary lives exacerbated by poor eating habits. This is a destructive trend that has resulted in an epidemic of childhood obesity and must be reversed.''

The endowment found students in lower income schools tended to spend less time being active in physical education classes and that students in large physical education classes only spent 10 percent of class time being active.

"It is clear from these studies that low quality PE is contributing to health disparities. We must quickly adopt these practices in schools serving low-income students who are at greatest risk of obesity," said Dr. Antoinette Yancey co-author of Failing Fitness, in a statement.

"Particularly notable is that schools with the highest quality most active PE had higher achievement test scores," James F. Sallis, director of the Active Living Research Program at San Diego State University said in a statement.

"We should be very concerned, for our student's health, their academic success and the long-term effects this will have," O'Connell said in November.

The endowment has outlined suggestions to help shape-up California's physical education policies. The endowment recommends smaller class sizes, with classes taught by qualified instructors, funding to improve athletic facilities in low-income schools, enforcement of state minimum requirements, and an enhanced value of physical education within school communities.

"We strongly urge educators, parents, local officials and state policymakers to apply these reports' recommendations to address the deficiencies in physical education classes throughout the state," said California Endowment CEO Moss.

Find out if your school district is complying to elementary school physical education requirements:

District Compliance Summary in California Elementary School PE Requirements

Find out what constitutes quality physical education and how it benefits students:

Understanding PE Fact Sheet

Learn how the California Department of Education assesses school physical education performance:

How the CDE Assesses School PE Performance


SHOULD F = FAT? - The CDC is right to issue guidelines for sending obesity report cards to parents of schoolkids, but more phys ed classes might be nice.

LA Times Editorial

February 2, 2007 - Children have yet another reason to dread report card day. Along with revealing how well students have mastered reading, writing and arithmetic, school systems are now using the cards to tell parents some bad news: Their children are too fat.

Obesity report cards, which typically include students' body mass index (BMI) — a ratio calculated using height and weight — are becoming an increasingly popular tool to address childhood obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is formulating guidelines for schools to follow when they mix their academic mission with a judgment on flab.

The news is often unwelcome. Irritated parents say they already have scales at home and do not need a school nurse to tell them the obvious. But, like it or not, the reality is that schools are often the first (and sometimes the last) public institution to provide needed services for a child's development, including basic information. Because childhood obesity is at epic proportions, the question for many districts is how best to spread the word.

In California, students' BMI is measured in grades 5, 7 and 9. But how (or even if) the information is passed along to parents is up to individual districts. The Los Angeles Unified School District does not send home BMI report cards. Whether obesity report cards are effective, however, is up in the air.

The obvious drawback is that making children self-conscious about their weight can cause as much harm as good. Obesity is a serious health problem, but so are anorexia and bulimia.

The best way to avoid shaming or confusing children would be for schools to send the information directly to parents, with clear guidelines on how to read the data and suggestions for improving the score. Printing a child's BMI on a report card next to grades is an invitation for playground abuse and misinterpretation. The New York Times recently wrote about a 6-year-old Pennsylvania girl who practically stopped eating after she misread a note telling her parents that her BMI was in the normal 80th percentile.

School districts can also help combat obesity by meeting their recommended state guidelines of providing 100 minutes a week of physical education for elementary students.

Ultimately, it's the parents who bear responsibility for their children's health. But giving them basic information, and their children the recommended amount of supervised exercise, is a reasonable and relatively inexpensive service for schools to provide.

smf: I’m usually not one for the quick fix, but the first and fastest way to start would be for the State Board of Education to rescind the misbegotten policy that allows school districts to require PE in only two years of high school - done to accommodate the scheduling of a small number kids into AP and Honors classes. This sends a message that academics is somehow less important than health and fitness …and that AP and honors is more important than general education. It ain’t so. The reality is that this was done to save money and simplify class scheduling – to make adults’ jobs easier and running a school district cheaper while appearing to help students. Try again.

Original article posted 1/29/o7 - Times editorial added 2/2/07

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