PE Must Hold Students to High Standards

Kyle Flett, Staff Writer

Changes in the standards for Physical Education in the district are ill advised.

The current proposal shifts emphasis from meeting a specific standard to showing a certain level of improvement.  In other words, it moves PE from standards based to growth based assessment.

While this sounds reasonable at first, it completely contradicts the methods of evaluation used in every other discipline.  To apply this to other courses would be like saying that you should receive an “A” in English not because you demonstrate mastery of a certain set of skills, but because you came into the class completely illiterate and now you can form a sentence.

Growth based assessment essentially devalues the letter grade.  Sure, grade inflation has already done this to some extent, but now the letter grade will be completely meaningless, providing no concrete, consistent indication of achievement.

Changing from a universal baseline time for the mile-time to an improvement-based system is not, as the proponents argue, fair.

In this scenario, the year-round runner is penalized for beginning his PE year already fit and healthy.  Meanwhile, the kid who shows up having done no physical activity is rewarded.  Why?  It’s called the law of diminishing returns, and its a scientific fact.  The more fit you become, the harder it is to make improvements.  An untrained person responds quickly to even the lowest training stimulus. A well trained person needs a great deal more stimulus to make the same rate of improvement.

It requires increasingly more effort to make improvement the more fit you become.  Thus, in a growth based assessment system, it is entirely likely that those who are actually putting forth more effort will be penalized while those whose effort is quite modest will be rewarded.

One might then argue that a growth model encourages more effort, but that too is a flawed measurement. English teachers don’t ask you how hard you worked on your essay before giving you a grade; they grade you based on the overall quality of work compared to other people.

This inconsistency between the PE grading system and that of all other courses can not be dismissed simply by saying that PE is a meaningless course, an opinion held by far too many students.

Physical Education is as important as math or science or English.  Physical growth is a critical part of human development and physical health is an important contributor to academic achievement. According to the Center for Disease Control, physical activity can be correlated with students achieving higher grades and being able to concentrate for longer periods of time during academic classes.


Our school and our culture need to stop providing excuses for students to be physically underdeveloped, just as they do not allow students to be intellectually underdeveloped.  We do not tolerate illiteracy.  We do not tolerate failure in academics.  If a student can’t read, we teach him to read by providing the support needed to overcome whatever intellectual deficiencies, environmental challenges or other obstacles stand in the way.  If an able bodied teen can’t run a mile in 8 minutes, it should be addressed in the same way.

Our academic instructors hold every student to high standards.  PE teachers should be no different.