Shape of the Nation Report

Voices for Healthy Kids released a comprehensive review of the status of physical education in the United States in 2016.  Voices for Healthy Kids was a joint initiative of the American Heart Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Shape America.  This report is the first update of its kind since NASPE's 2012 report.  The purpose of the report is to provide an update on the nation's progress in implementing recommended practices in physical education.


The entire 142-page document can be accessed at:  Individuals can also access the executive summary, profiles of each individual state – as reported by the supervisor of physical education for their state's department of education-, and copies of prior reports.


The 2016 document aggregates information they obtained by surveying departments of education in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and by engaging in legal analysis of state physical education statutes and regulations, in an attempt to represent physical education policies and practices across the country.


The document begins by posting the benefits of quality physical education to overall health and well-being.  They advocate the need for schools to commit to evidence-based physical education.  The authors also point out that there are no federal mandates for physical education.  Decisions regarding instructional time, grades in which physical education required, and content is left to each state's discretion.


Some of the National findings drawn from the 2016 report include:

  • Standards differ widely from state to state, resulting in their summation to variation in policies and implementation approaches.  In many cases, state policies are broad and ambiguous, leaving their interpretation of the local educational agencies.
  • 39 of the 51 states currently require students to take physical education in one or more grades in elementary school.  This is a decrease from 43 states requiring it in the 2012 report.
  • 19 of the 51 states require a specific number of minutes per week of elementary age instruction, compared to 16 states in 2012.
  • 37 of 51 states require students to take physical education in one or more grades.  This is a decrease from 41 in 2012.
  • 39 of 51 states require students to earn physical education credit for high school graduation.  19 of those 37 states require one credit.  31 of the 39 states require the high school credit to be earned online.
  • Only South Carolina annually assesses the availability of appropriate equipment and adequate facilities to implement required physical education instruction.
  • 31 of the 51 states permit students to substitute other activities for their physical education credit.
  • 13 of 49 reporting states require physical fitness assessments.  Five states require that schools collect Body Mass Index scores in one or more grades.


Findings explicitly for the State of Michigan includes:

  • The state requires that elementary, middle school and high schools provide physical education and maintains that students who are physically fit and capable of doing so are to take it (I am simply stating what the law says).  The state does not have a method of enforcing the requirements. 
  • High school students must earn either one credit of health and physical education, or one-half credit of health and one-half credit in approved extracurricular athletics or activities involving physical activity.
  • Daily recess is not required by state mandate.
  • The State of Michigan does not require schools or districts to use a specific curriculum.
  • The state does not have a required maximum student to teacher ratio for classes of physical education.
  • Online courses of physical education is allowed to fulfill the physical education credit
  • The state does not require student assessment related to state content standards


So this is the overview of the status of physical education in Michigan.  We certainly hope to engage in ongoing discourse as professionals in the months to come.