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WVU team focuses on improving state and national student learning through physical education

The term ‘accountability system’ is a popular topic. In 2015, a new act, Every Student Succeeds Act, allowed each state more freedom and flexibility to impact the quality of wellness and health of every student through physical education.  

PE is part of a well-rounded education. The Department of Education has opened the doors to incorporate physical education as a part of critical subject areas in schools. This is a perfect opportunity for PE to become a focus again.

Emi Tsuda and James Wyant, both assistant professors at West Virginia University College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, are working with other faculty members to prepare a report, highlighting the correlation between student learning and physical education.

They are part of a five-member team based at WVU, including Sean Bulger, director of online learning and professor, Eloise Elliott, Ware Distinguished Professor, and Andrea Taliaferro, associate professor, striving to improve the health and wellness of children across the state and country.

All five have extensive research and teaching credentials in the physical education arena. The group is partnering at the national level, providing excellent exposure for both the University and College.

The team discovered that nine states assessed student learning, upon receiving a response from 41 states. Only two states gathered data related to comprehensive student learning. One was knowledge-based and the six others were fitness-based learning.

“From the results of the study, it’s clear that we need to develop more systems across states. At the same time, the system needs to be thorough and well established,” said Tsuda. She noted that some states don’t mandate a required number of physical education minutes per week.

“Quality PE is needed, centered within a fundamental basis, to enable an accountability system. It is costly; however, it is necessary,” added Tsuda.

The system allows researchers to determine if students are learning, although some students receive a waiver from PE.

Assessment can provide evidence that PE improves learning, shows impact and holds teachers accountable. People use the assessment to see if goals are achieved. National goals of PE accountability system focus on knowledge-based learning within the scope of daily PE classes.

Wyant explains that the group has identified the need to have meaningful assessments in place. “We’re not there yet. There is room to improve. Some states can serve as models. Some are innovative. They have a robust accountability system in place, plus, they use technology,” he added.

“Within the field of PE, we need to support central certification status, components of quality PE. We need to establish a required number of minutes of PE, student to teacher ratio and PE as a required subject,” explained Tsuda.

According to Wyant, some states can serve as models and key enablers. These states have legislation that produces directives for PE teachers and curriculum while encouraging stakeholder engagement.

“We are at the initial stage within this research process, to explore accountability systems in PE. This project is an opportunity for CPASS to establish a focus to advocate policy and legislation to generate positive outcomes. This is a timely, relevant topic,” said Wyant.

National partners include Action for Healthy Kids. “We can springboard findings to follow up on the study, leading to presentations and more research studies,” said Tsuda.

The group’s key results will be published in a status report and manuscript submitted to the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (JOPERD).
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