LIU: CITY SCHOOLS FAIL PHYSICAL EDUCATION
Audit Determines that Department of Education
Hasn’t Updated Its PE Plan in 30 Years
NEW YORK, NY – City Comptroller John C. Liu announced today that an audit of the Department of Education (DOE) found that many elementary schools do not meet state guidelines for physical education (PE) and, that despite documenting high rates of obese and overweight students, the DOE has not filed a PE plan with the state since 1982.
Childhood obesity can lead to lifelong health problems such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In a 2009 report, the DOE and the Department of Health (DOH) warned that local rates of childhood obesity were higher than the national average. That report, “Childhood Obesity is a Serious Concern in New York City,” stressed that test scores rise alongside physical fitness. The report recommended that schools ensure that “all students receive the required physical education instruction each week, as mandated by the New York State Education Commissioner’s Regulations.”
“The DOE has failed to give students the legally required amount of physical education and failed to follow its own recommendations for fighting high rates of childhood obesity,” Comptroller Liu said. “The DOE is failing gym.”
“We are delighted that Comptroller Liu shares our commitment to the health and well-being of the city’s students,” said Amy J. Schwartz, Chair of the Task Force on Physical Education for the Women’s City Club of New York, which is celebrating its 95th year and has a long history of advocacy on education policy. “This audit should serve as further inspiration to the DOE to implement what research has shown — that improved physical education leads to better academic performance.”
Schools Fall Short on Exercise:
Not one of the elementary schools auditors visited met State Physical Education Regulations for all grades. Only 6% of the audited schools came anywhere near offering the required amount of PE to their students:
§ Kindergarten through Grade 3 students must participate in daily PE for a total of at least two hours each week.
§ Grades 4 through 6 students must receive PE at least three times each week for a minimum of two hours per week.
§ Grades 7 and 8 students must receive PE at least twice a week for a minimum of one and a half hours per week.
Some schools either had no space designated for PE instruction or no PE teacher. Detailed findings on the schools and each grade’s performance are available in the audit’s appendix.
Obstacles to DOE Offering Enough Phys. Ed.:
The DOE does not monitor whether schools meet state requirements for PE, leaving principals solely responsible for making sure students receive the required amount of physical education. However, auditors found that the majority of school officials were not familiar with the state PE requirements. Officials at 65% of the sampled schools did not know any of the state’s PE requirements.
School officials said that it was difficult for them to provide students the required PE due to the time needed for subjects such as math, English language arts, science, and social studies.
Rates of Overweight, Obese Students in NYC:
The 2009 DOE and DOH report stated that 21% of children in grades K through 8 were obese while another 18% were considered overweight.
The report stated that childhood obesity was epidemic throughout the United States, increasing the likelihood of adult obesity, which is associated with heart disease and cancer.
The audit recommended that the DOE:
§ Create, implement, and regularly update a PE plan that meets state regulations for all schools.
§ Adequately monitor school compliance with the state’s PE requirements.
§ Ensure that principals are aware of the state’s PE requirements and advise them that it is their responsibility that students receive the mandated amount of PE.
The audit focused on elementary school students because they face a greater risk of developing long-term health issues due to childhood obesity. Auditors visited 31 elementary schools in all five boroughs during the 2010-2011 school year. Fifteen of the schools were selected randomly and the remainder were selected based on their proximity to the other schools in order to allow two site visits in one day.
Comptroller Liu credited Deputy Comptroller for Audit Tina Kim and the Audit Bureau for presenting the findings. The full report is available at http://comptroller.nyc.gov/audits.