Knowing Your Goals: How Should We Fit Physical Education Into School?
Physical education can fit in New York City schools' complex schedules and tight budgets, once we rethink how schools can find partners to make creative arrangements stick. The Alliance's Excellence in School Wellness award has earned support from major hospitals and researchers. This award highlighted a gap between the central NYC Department of Education's pioneering work on wellness and the passion many local teachers bring to wellness initiatives. Many inventive teachers lack funding and many steadfast principals lack space for robust phys ed. We propose to fill the gap with local solutions. Parents can find out what their principal and teachers are offering, what they'd like to offer, and how to bridge the gap.
We affirm that a growing corps of scholarship proves significant links from increases in phys ed to increases in overall school success. So we set the school day as the strongest context for physical education, but should lengthen the day and the list of teachers qualified to deliver lessons. Phys ed is ed- not time off from learning. We aim to build a system for schools to contract with independent teachers. This can start with a pilot and grow through continual organizing and study. We ground it in the idea of using parks as venues for phys ed, in a new alliance uniting the NYC Departments of Parks and Recreation, Health and Mental Hygiene, and Education.
We speak after seeing partnerships as well as from reading data. We know that parents can learn from teachers and principals about what phys ed happens in school and about how to increase it. Click here for suggestions about how to glean these facts, and how to help your school seamlessly add phys ed.
Our model scales quickly. Consider one of the many schools where it's impractical to pay a full-time phys ed teacher working in a dedicated space. Say the school moves dance into the classroom. Students learn to focus more fully and their studies benefit. But only a small percentage of the school can tap these benefits at a time. If the school leadership could store sign-ups on a database and could send dozens of students to the dance teacher after-school or during a lunch period, benefits might accrue.
Children could get to know a broader net of caring adults. In after-school settings, they could gain physical education with their parents or neighbors from other schools. Schools could coordinate custom offerings for their communities. Principals could hook into a central office that can streamline detail work. And park managers could work on a new platform for partnerships with neighbors, one that can easily extend to cleanup days and friends groups. This parallels much of what goes on with the Office of Arts Coordination, adding the vibrant bond with parks. The shift we must make recognizes physical education as equal to arts in utility for whole learning.
Long-term Goals and a New School
By the Strategic Alliance's third year, teachers and principals across the city supported its efforts- but lamented that it would take a change in budgeting philosophy to spread excellence.
We're not so gloomy. If creating a vocabulary of praise let the Alliance tap a stream of data that helped schools change, then students who fuse physical education with other kinds can clarify how physical education serves within an overall learning adventure.
Nonprofit partners like Row New York, Phys Ed Plus and Washington Heights' JCL Team can manage the delivery of lessons and evaluations, freeing schools to counsel and track students who may be new to phys ed. These nimble nonprofits can also devise ways to engage parents and other caring adults. There are many ways to create pilot groups doing professionally-led exercise.
The fullest expression would be an Office of Physical Education Partnerships inside NYCDOE, like the one that coordinates arts programs. What works for arts education can work for physical education. Many school leaders expand learning time with after-school programs and expand learning breadth through partnerships with nonprofit organizations. These partnerships scale while they add little or no cost. If they gain the staff and software of a full office, they can also spread to reach higher-need populations that can't find other space or funds.
We also propose, down the road, to create a high school with an option for an associate's degree specializing in phys-ed and health professions. Our new school and office can organize young people and connect them to larger initiatives within government and to community-building in parks.
Our new school, which will teach physical learning to high school and associates' candidates, will locate both research and curricular advances. Youth in this school will learn the management, research, science and illustrative relevance of physical learning to all education. They can also work after-school or in summers, earning stipends as they help to coordinate our central office and analyze its outcomes.
To safeguard our children's health and sharpness, we need statisticians, biologists and physicians working in concert with teachers, artists and counselors. A new school can inculcate these skills over several years. A new alliance with parks can disperse them at once. We are eager to show how principals, teachers, parents and students can join independent educators. We promise, building strength through partnerships, to flow physical and mental learning together in parks and in future graduating classes.