Gym teachers across the country are finding ways to implement the Common Core State Standards into physical fitness, creating some concern that actual exercise time will be reduced and that teachers who aren't prepared will be instructing students on English and math.
If Common Core instruction is not done properly, “it could be a distraction” to a gym teacher normally focused on physical fitness, said Michelle Ortiz, the senior program manager for the Society of Health and Physical Educators. SHAPE represents the nation’s gym and health teachers.
But Ortiz, a former physical eduction teacher in Washington, D.C., said SHAPE supports Common Core in health and PE classes as long as it is implemented correctly.
“For some teachers it might be overwhelming since their first objective for the teaching year is not math and reading,” Ortiz told TheBlaze. “But this is not asking health and physical education teachers to teach math and reading. It is rather reinforcing and helping students apply what they have learned in other classes.”
Among the ways to incorporate Common Core is to require students use language skills in writing food logs. In earlier grades, it involves allowing certain games to be scored by two points, five points or 10 points as a way of teaching children multiplication, Ortiz said.
A recent article in Slate that asked, “Is Common Core Ruining Gym Class?”, pointed to cases where principles concerned about tests are eager to get as much math and English instruction as possible into other subjects such as gym, art, music and other elective courses. The Slate piece further said that poorly trained gym teachers were cutting exercise time to push more Common Core instruction.
Some schools have told gym teachers to devote a certain amount of class time to math and reading skills, said Martha James-Hassan, director of physical education graduate programs at Towson University.
“That’s not necessarily the instructional shift outlined by the Common Core,” James-Hassan told Slate. “That’s a less-informed Band-Aid approach.”
New York-based instructional coach Michael Fisher said gym teachers aren’t trained to teach English and math, and tell him they feel unprepared, Slate reported.
But math and reading lessons should only be incorporated if they fit, Ortiz said: “Health and PE should be the first objectives, but if it fits into the PE lesson there are many ways teach it, it should be part of the course.”
SHAPE does not have statistics or numbers quantifying how many school districts have applied Common Core State Standards to health and PE classes.
Common Core in gym classes has been stirring some controversy since the summer. SPARK, a public health research arm of San Diego State University Research Foundation that focuses on fighting childhood obesity, has promoted implementing Common Core in PE nationally.