Oregon students not getting much physical education

PORTLAND — The majority of Oregon elementary school students are failing to get the daily 30 minutes of physical education as hoped for by the Legislature.

In 2007, legislators set a target of 30 minutes per day for elementary students and 45 minutes for middle-school pupils. Though those numbers were goals, not requirements, schools were mandated to report how much physical education they offered during the 2007-08 school year.

The state reported Wednesday that only 35 of Oregon's almost 800 elementary schools (less than 5 percent) met the 30-minute target. The typical student got only 12 minutes per day.

Large Portland-area districts were among those failing to even come close to the targets, The Oregonian newspaper reported. The Parkrose School District, in the northeast part of the city, offered less than eight minutes a day on average.

School officials speaking before the Senate Education Committee offered several reasons for not meeting the 30-minute target. Among the chief reasons:

  • Schools don't have enough money to hire gym teachers.
  • Physical education suffers because schools feel they must stress reading, writing and math. Those subjects are the areas in which schools are rated based on test scores.
  • There are not enough gymnasiums and the ones in existence are too small.

Dave Turnbull, teacher and track coach at Summit High School in Bend, told the committee he has established a model fitness program at his high school, but worries about the state of physical education — even at Summit.

"It's really come down to a lot of money issues," he said. "We are considered a nonessential class."

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