Core PE: Now with less exercise

Common Core has come to gym class, reports Madeleine Cummings in Slate. That can mean anything from “word walls” to worksheets. Will there be less time for exercise?

Many P.E. teachers have little training in the new standards or in how to teach academics, she writes. They’re under pressure to help raise test scores. “Who needs exercise when gym class can serve as yet another 45-minute opportunity for teachers to shoehorn in vocabulary and multiplication drills?”

“Timmy Dhakaia, a senior at Brooklyn’s Midwood High School, says she and her classmates now spend so much gym time on written exercises and tests that they don’t always have time for, well, gym,” writes Cummings. After a yoga session, students fill out a worksheet on which parts of the body each pose strengthened. It takes time.

At a Maryland elementary school, teacher Judy Schmid has her bowling students score games manually. They learn Core math skills while counting pins, calculating their scores and playing number games. It takes time.

A “text” can be anything, advises Martha James-Hassan, who directs physical education programs at Towson University.

 Instead of asking students to read articles or write essays in gym, she suggests students learn what the lines signify on the gymnasium floor, or compare ingredients on a nutrition label. Talking about a sports controversy at the beginning of class is another technique for sparking discussion and helping students learn how to frame arguments, both skills valued by the Common Core.

“But even these more creative suggestions sacrifice students’ physical activity,” writes Cummings.

The new, nicer PE

Although she comes from a dodgeball-loving family, Rachel Levy thinks it’s time to reinvent PE, she writes on All Things Education.

The new, nicer PE bans dodgeball, exercise as punishment and rewarding the most athletic students.

In are personal fitness plans, target heart-rate zones, and sports that play to different strengths and introduce students to activities that they can pursue across a lifetime. “Physically literate” and “lifelong movers” are buzzwords of the New PE.

Even for her athletic sons, who are starting middle school, the new approach makes sense, writes Levy. But will PE be pushed out by academics?

I hated dodgeball. I threatened to drop out of high school if required to walk on a balance beam. (My counselor, a former PE teacher, negotiated a compromise.)  I won the National Teachers of English contest (state of Illinois) with a biographical essay on my loathing for field hockey titled Confessions of a Physically Educated Woman.

Now I exercise every day for 45 to 90 minutes, combining weight training, walking, swimming and a weekly Zumba class. Why? Because I want to control my diabetes and stave off general decay.

A school that puts physical education first

Physical education comes first at Urban Dove Team Charter School in a low-income Brooklyn neighborhood, reports CBS News. High school students spend the first three hours of every day working out with their team mates and coaches.

They play basketball, lift weights, jump rope, use punching bags, ride bikes, and do yoga. Students rotate sports depending on the season.

. . . When kids go to Social Studies, English and Math, their coaches go with them . . . sitting in class, helping with homework, and sorting out problems.

If a student walks out of class, coach Alana Arthurs follows to ask “What’s wrong?” She wants to know “how can I get you back in the classroom so you can continue to learn.”

Ninety-three percent of students come from low-income families; one third are in special education. The school recruits “overage/under-credited students” with poor attendance records.

Jai Nanda developed the school after running an after-school sports program for inner-city kids, Urban Dove. He saw teens who’d attend school only if they were playing on a sports team. When the season ended, they stopped showing up.

Three hours a day for sports is an awful lot, but nothing else has worked for these kids.

Evaluation overkill hits PE teachers

Evaluating teachers’ impact on student achievement is “a necessary reform,” writes Terry Ryan on Ohio Gadfly. But it can go too far. Ohio will evaluate phys ed teachers on their students’ skipping, throwing, dancing and batting skills and knowledge. Among the goals:

*Consistently demonstrating correct skipping technique with a smooth and effortless rhythm;

*Able to throw consistently a ball underhand with good accuracy and technique to a target (or person) with varying distances.

The suggested written test for K-2 students (five to eight year olds) includes:

To throw a ball overhand with your right hand, you should step forward with your left foot.

A. True B. False

For a good overhand throw, you should bend the elbow in the shape of an “L” behind the head before throwing.

A. True B. False

Instead of throwing balls, kids will be taking tests on how to throw balls. Teachers think this is stupid, writes Ryan. Parents think it’s stupid. Everyone thinks it’s stupid except for the Ohio Department of Education.

P.E. goes academic

Gym Class Isn’t Just Fun and Games Anymore, reports the New York Times. In addition to teaching health and fitness, P.E. teachers are trying to add reading, ‘riting and rithmetic to their classes.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — On a recent afternoon, the third graders in Sharon Patelsky’s class reviewed words like “acronym,” “clockwise” and “descending,” as well as math concepts like greater than, less than and place values.

During gym class.

Ms. Patelsky, the physical education teacher at Everglades Elementary School here, instructed the students to count by fours as they touched their elbows to their knees during a warm-up. They added up dots on pairs of dice before sprinting to round mats imprinted with mathematical symbols. And while in push-up position, they balanced on one arm and used the other (“Alternate!” Ms. Patelsky urged. “That’s one of your vocabulary words”) to stack oversize Lego blocks in columns labeled “ones,” “tens” and “hundreds.”

P.E. teachers worry their jobs will be cut if they’re not seen as critical to a school’s core mission — and test scores, a Palm Beach County administrator tells the Times.

Across the country, P.E. teachers now post vocabulary lists on gym walls, ask students to test Newton’s Laws of Motion as they toss balls, and give quizzes on parts of the skeleton or food groups.

At Deep Creek Elementary School in Chesapeake, Va., children count in different languages during warm-up exercises and hop on letter mats to spell out words during gym class.

The District of Columbia has added 50 questions about health and physical education to its end-of-year standardized tests.

More academics can mean less exercise.

In Kristina Rodgers’s gym class at Indian Pines Elementary School in Lake Worth, Fla., students spent as much time pondering pictures of broccoli and blocks of cheese to stick into pockets on a food chart as they did hopping or running.

Taking the “physical” out of physical education won’t help all those boys getting antsy in class. Kids need time to move.