This is What is Best For Kids!

There is no silver bullet that can save education. Actually, there is. Decrease the number of low socioeconomic status families. I am not saying kick them out of the district. I am saying the highest indicator of academic success is socioeconomic status. (link and Doug Timm) Increasing education, income, and occupation as well as decreasing privilege is the number one thing that will help our lowest students. That is a conversation that is appropriate for another blog. It will take the entire country working together with a shared vision numerous years for that to happen. We can all agree this isn’t happening anytime soon. Today let’s talk about something administrators and boards of education can change for next school year that will increase test scores, lower negative student behaviors, and make our students healthier.

This all stemmed from a conversation I had with Eric Sheniger on Voxer last week. He spoke about challenging his participants at conferences to show him how technology was improving students’ learning. Where is the data? Not one of his participants stood up to accept the challenge. This isn’t about technology, though. No, this blog is about iron clad proof. Mike Kuczala, the author of The Kinesthetic Classroom, calls it ignoring “the robust and growing body of research that can help raise the academic achievement of all students”.  I go one step farther. Our school leaders are bordering on malpractice.

I am going to present  research studies showing unequivocally how we can raise the almighty test scores in students. Are you one of those rogue teachers or administrators that don’t believe in test scores? How about academic publishings that show how to decrease negative student behaviors or make students just plain healthier and happier without sacrificing academic achievement and allowing them to have more fun? You will read summaries of scientific journal articles studies that come from a neutral source that is being flatly ignored by 99.9% of schools in the United States of America. All this at a fraction of the cost of new reading and math programs, textbooks, wifi, Chromebooks, ipads, greenscreens, and every other high-cost item that is supposed to change education.

There is one thing that if changed will drastically uplift your school from poor to good, good to great, or from great to outstanding. That cure-all comes in the form of physical movement. This is not just about brain boosts. Nor is it purely about physical education. It is about The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. Read that again. There is evidence. Strong evidence. Irrefutable evidence showing how physical activity combined with physical education increases academic performance. All of this evidence was reviewed and published in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control, the Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, and the  Health Promotion Division of Adolescent and School Health.

1) School-Based Physical Education Studies (14 studies)

Overall, increased time in physical education appears to have a positive relationship or no relationship with academic achievement. Increased time in physical education does not appear to have a negative relationship with academic achievement.

I interpreted this as increased physical education classes either increase academic achievement or don’t hurt it at all. That is a win-win situation. More physed time will either increase your students’ scores; even if it doesn’t it won’t hurt their scores. Again this is only addressing academic performance right now.

The CDC said:

To maximize the potential benefits of student participation in physical education class, schools and physical education teachers can consider increasing the amount of time students spend in physical education or adding components to increase the quality of physical education class. Articles in the review examined increased physical education time (achieved by increasing the number of days physical education was provided each week or lengthening class time) and/or improved quality of physical education (achieved through strategies such as using trained instructors and increasing the amount of active time during physical education class).

2) Recess (eight studies)

Time spent in recess appears to have a positive relationship with, or no relationship with, children’s attention, concentration, and/or on-task classroom behavior. All eight studies found one or more positive associations between recess and indicators of cognitive skills, attitudes, and academic behavior; none of the studies found negative associations.

What this said to me is that recess is only positive. There were 0 negative associations found with giving the students recess. Case closed. Keep or increase recess time.

The CDC said:

School boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers can feel confident that providing recess to students on a regular basis may benefit academic behaviors, while also facilitating social development and contributing to overall physical activity and its associated health benefits. There was no evidence that time spent in recess had a negative association with cognitive skills, attitudes, or academic behavior.

3) Classroom Physical Activity (nine articles)

Eight of the nine studies found positive associations between classroom-based physical activity and indicators of cognitive skills and attitudes, academic behavior, and academic achievement; none of the studies found negative associations.

It is pretty clear. There are no negative associations with using brain boosts in the class. Eight of the nine studies showed that brain boosts increased academic achievement.

The CDC said:

Classroom teachers can incorporate movement activities and physical activity breaks into the classroom setting that may improve student performance and the classroom environment. Most interventions reviewed here used short breaks (5–20 minutes) that required little or no teacher preparation, special equipment, or resources.

4) Extracurricular Physical Activity (19 studies)

All 19 studies examining the relationships between participation in extracurricular physical activities and academic performance found one or more positive associations.

Every study showed that after-school physical activity (not just sports) increased academic performance. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

The CDC said:

The evidence suggests that superintendents, principals, and athletic directors can develop or continue school-based sports programs without concern that these activities have a detrimental impact on students’ academic performance. School administrators and teachers also can encourage after-school organizations, clubs, student groups, and parent groups to incorporate physical activities into their programs and events.

This evidence has been around since 2010. How many changes has your school district made in the past 5 years in the name of “research-based” reading and math programs? If the data I showed you didn’t convince you check out the book SPARK by Dr. Ratey, or watch this TED talk from Paul Zientarski about Naperville Illinois. Their school district increased physical activity time in 1990. Their test scores blew away every other school district in the state after they implemented this new policy. Just look at their 2015 PARCC test scores.

“The entire district’s scores for English language arts show 68 percent meeting or exceeding expectations, 20 percent approaching expectations, 9 percent partially meeting expectations and 4 percent not meeting expectations.

In math, 60 percent met or exceeded expectations, 25 percent approached expectations, 11 percent partially met expectations and 4 percent didn’t meet them.

English language arts scores by elementary grade show 58 percent of third-graders met or exceeded, as opposed to only 34 percent of Illinois students; 66 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded, compared to 37 percent of the state; and 67 percent of fifth-graders met or exceeded, compared to 37 percent of the state.

Junior high sixth-graders showed 62 percent met or exceeded English language arts expectations, as compared to 33 percent of the state; 70 percent of seventh-graders met or exceeded, compared to 37 percent of the state; and 74 percent of eighth-graders met or exceeded, compared to 38 percent of the entire state.

Seventy-seven percent of district high school students met or exceeded English language arts expectations, compared to 31 percent of all Illinois students.

Math results for elementary students in third grade showed 63 percent met or exceeded expectations, compared to 36 percent of the state; 61 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded, compared to 28 percent of the state; and 61 percent of fifth-graders met or exceeded, compared to 27 percent in the state.

In junior high, 55 percent of sixth-graders met or exceeded math expectations, compared to 26 percent of all state students; 56 percent of seventh-graders met or exceeded, compared to 27 percent of state students; and 61 percent of eighth-graders met or exceeded, compared to 31 percent in the rest of the state.

Sixty-seven percent of district high school students met or exceeded expectations in math, compared to 17 percent of all Illinois students.” (link)

Another program, created by Joe McCarthy, that will increase student’s academic performance is called Literacy Physical Education. This program’s success has been well documented for years and is offered absolutely free!

Literacy Physical Education is a program designed to help a specific grade level that is behind, based on the statewide reading assessment to each grade level standards.

Our data shows that students who are in our 12 week class will more than double their peers and up to five the national average on the winter assessment. Students come to the gym every day, fifteen minutes for 12 weeks. Every class embeds fluency, comprehension and spelling into movement activities. Students in this class learn how to combat “learned helplessness” by the end of the 12 weeks. Students will use whiteboards, markers and towels as their learning tools. Paper and pencil is another option for you to use.

Joe (@joeMcCarthy09) will travel to your school district and present his findings contact SPARK PE to find out more. He also has a video of his lessons on YouTube. You can see his whole presentation with the wealth of data he has collected here.

That is what we call data. Irrefutable facts that clearly show how increased physical activity benefits our students academically. It is time to stop blaming parents, grades, homework, lawmakers, teachers, or any other part of education that is being attacked. It is time for school boards and administrators to look at the data. The “research based” idea that increasing physical activity time will increase test scores, student’s health, and attitudes is the answer to the problems you are looking for. If you read this and ignore the data please don’t tweet what’s best for kids. This is what’s best for kids. Use this information to increase physical education classes lead by a certified teacher, create or increase recess time, and implement before and after-school physical activity clubs. Email this, tweet this, Facebook this, to every administrator and board member you know. I know I will be. It’s what is best for kids.


8 thoughts on “This is What is Best For Kids!

  1. Dr. Laura Spencer (@LSpencerEdD)

    Another issue is that Bloom’s isn’t actually a hierarchy of thinking… it’s been fought against for years (see Making Thinking Visible chapter 1 by Ron Ritchhart). You can analyze in order to form an understanding. Because teachers don’t always know this, they stick struggling students in drill and kill mode without ever giving opportunities to engage in the higher order thinking that builds the thinking connections which truly create learning. I remember my daughter learning field hockey – she didn’t sit in a room learning every rule, every stick move, every penalty. She played. She learned. She tried out some moves and then reflected and adjusted. She watched others. This is how humans learn. When teachers move out of the thinking of “those kids” can’t do complex thinking, they may be surprised at how much students can learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mal Balow

    The more we have children move throughout the day, the higher the achievement scores in core content areas. We need physical education for all students every day.


  3. David Gusitsch

    Glad to see this post making the rounds again. With all of the information, research and data, this is one that needs to stay in circulation. Thanks for all of your work, Justin.


  4. jcahill

    Justin – This is an awesome post. A must read for all PE teachers and administrators. Thanks for all your great work and research.


  5. Pingback: The Kinesthetic Movement – #slowchathealth

  6. Pingback: The PE Playbook – March 2016 Edition – drowningintheshallow

  7. Pingback: Get movin!

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