An interview with Paul Rosengard, Executive Director of SPARK
With access to physical education (PE) shrinking, and the waistlines of our children growing, educators and communities will need to make sure that the activity K-12 students get gives them the best return. To tease out hallmarks of quality, we turned to Paul Rosengard of SPARK. Paul is an author, researcher/educator, and executive director of SPARK programs of San Diego State University (@paulrosengard).
The following is the first part of a three-part discussion:
THRIVING SCHOOLS: What role does physical education play in the fight against childhood obesity?
Paul Rosengard: An important one! The Centers for Disease Control summarized existing data and research and school-based Physical Education (PE) received a “Strongly Recommended” rating as an intervention. Quality PE programs have been proven effective in increasing physical activity levels of students, and teaching important fitness and motor skills. Terrific PE programs also teach behavioral skills so students learn to be responsible for their own health and wellness in a variety of environments — and for a lifetime. Now is PE THE solution to the overweight and obesity crisis – no. There are so many other important factors that contribute to the problem. However, a lot of young people have some PE during the week giving us a “captive audience” to assess, prescribe, and evaluate.
To learn more about physical education as a solution to childhood obesity, click here to view a short video.
THRIVING SCHOOLS: Do all students have access to physical education?
Paul Rosengard: If we examine PE requirements in different states, counties, cities and rural areas, the short answer is no. Even within the same K-12 school district the frequency and duration of PE classes can vary greatly in elementary, middle and high schools. Many elementary students around the country have PE only once or twice a week. This is insufficient dosage to improve the health of children and adolescents. Oftentimes PE is not taught by a PE Specialist – someone with a degree in the subject that has successfully completed teaching preparation coursework and earned a credential or similar certification.
It’s important that students in grades K-12 have PE every day, instructed by a credentialed physical education specialist. The data show that the PE specialist is the best provider of instructional quantity and quality.
To learn more about access to physical education and what you can do to help, click here to view a short video.
THRIVING SCHOOLS: Aren’t all physical education programs basically the same?
Paul Rosengard: Not by a longshot. Studies of physical education show that content and instruction can vary greatly from class to class, teacher to teacher. There are many outstanding PE programs across the country taught by dedicated and hardworking subject matter experts. And, like all subjects, there are PE programs that fall far short. As a result, students may not accumulate enough minutes in moderate to vigorous activity. While there are National and often State Standards for PE — what children should know and be able to do at grade level — they are rarely adhered to or reinforced. While we believe physical education is a core subject, it is rarely viewed that way and administrators don’t always hold their PE teachers accountable for effective and efficacious instruction.
To learn more about National Standards and Guidelines for physical education, click here to visit the National Association for Sport and Physical Education website.
For free resources to support your physical education program, visit the SPARK website.
SPARK strives to improve the health of children, adolescents, and adults by disseminating evidence-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students.