Taking up a strategy that’s been used to shine a spotlight on gaps in arts education, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley introduced a bill Thursday that would require the city to report whether schools are offering physical education as required by state law.
The bill calls for the Department of Education to track the time spent on physical education by grade level and school across the city. It would also require the city to report the number of certified physical education teachers and what facilities are being used for instruction at each school.
“This bill will bring much needed transparency to the D.O.E. and give us the information we need to fully understand where schools are falling short and how we can fix them,” Crowley said in statement.
The state mandates that elementary school students receive two hours of physical education per week, with students in kindergarten through third grade receiving daily P.E. time. Required physical education time wanes as students get older, but students in most middle and high schools are required to receive physical education two or three times each per week. (Classroom teachers may lead the instruction, though the city has said it encourages schools to hire certified physical education teachers.)
But schools often fall short of that, and data about schools’ compliance has been limited.
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A 2011 report from the city comptroller’s office showed that only two of 31 elementary schools surveyed met the state requirements. In that report, principals said they lacked the space or personnel to offer as much physical education instruction as required. Others said they had felt pressure to curtail physical education in favor of academic subjects.
A slightly larger survey published by the American Heart Association in 2013 showed that 55 percent of the 272 schools surveyed failed to comply with the physical education time requirements set by the state.
Crowley’s bill takes advantage of one of the City Council’s few area of leverage over the Department of Education: its ability to require the department to report data. The city publishes student suspension data and information about schools’ arts education offerings because of similar laws.
A Department of Education spokesman said officials would review the bill.