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Most States Receive a Failing Grade on Physical Education

RESTON, VA — Despite skyrocketing childhood obesity rates and calls from Congress, the surgeon general, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for high-quality daily physical education programs, most states earn a failing grade on their physical education requirements. Those are the findings of the latest “Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA,” released by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association.

“This report shows that state physical education requirements are extremely weak,” says NASPE President Jacalyn Lund of Georgia State University. “Furthermore, a vast array of ‘loopholes’ such as exemptions, waivers and online physical education classes too often eradicate those minimal standards at the local level at a time when more and more children are obese or at risk of obesity.”

Conducted every five years, the report provides current information about the status of physical education in each state and the District of Columbia in the following areas: time requirements, exemptions/waivers and substitutions, class size, standards, curriculum and instruction, student assessment, teacher certification, national board certification, state physical education coordination and body mass index collection.

Since the last report in 2001, the number of overweight and obese children and adults has continually increased. Even though a majority of states mandate physical education, most do not require a specific amount of instructional time and about half allow exemptions, waivers and/or substitutions for physical education time. For the complete report, visit


  • Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have their own state standards for physical education.

  • About 30 percent of states do not mandate physical education for elementary and middle school students.

  • Twelve states (24 percent) allow required physical education credits to be earned through online physical education courses.

  • Twenty-two states (43 percent) require physical education grades to be included in a student's grade point average.

  • Sixteen states have a required comprehensive assessment test for graduation but none include physical education.

  • Thirty-six states have an educational report card that rates specific subject areas individually, but only three of those states (California, Hawaii, Kentucky) include physical education on their state report card.

  • Three states — Arkansas, California and Illinois — require schools to measure body mass index for each student.

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