KIDS COUNT: R.I. PE teachers want more professional development

PHYSICALLY active children have more active brains, according to research. / COURTESY CHARLES HILLMAN
PHYSICALLY active children have more active brains, according to research. / COURTESY CHARLES HILLMAN

PROVIDENCE – Physical education teachers in Rhode Island reported a lack of professional-development opportunities, according to the findings of the R.I. KIDS COUNT policy brief, “A Snapshot of Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs in Rhode Island,” released Thursday.

Twenty of the 49 PE teachers surveyed for the report said there were no professional development programs available to them. For those who did identify programming for PE teachers, according to the policy paper, there were “administrative barriers” such as needing to use personal time to attend programming, blocking them from signing up.

This issue was also cited by the R.I. Department of Education in its 2016 R.I. Middle and High School Health Profile Report, which found 34 percent of lead health education teachers received professional development regarding physical fitness and activity while the remaining 66 percent expressed interest in such programming.

The report linked more professional development opportunities for PE teachers as a way in which to increase the physical activity level of children through improved use of recess and incorporation of increased physical activity in the classroom.

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Not enough students engage in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day, said the report, which has led to a rise in childhood obesity. Citing a National Center for Health Statistics report, the RI KIDS COUNT policy paper showed a steady nationwide rise in obese children from 5 percent of youth in 1974 to 17 percent in 2014, the most up-to-date data.

In 2015, a R.I. Department of Health survey showed 53 percent of the state’s middle schoolers reported participating in an hour of physical activity each day while 44 percent of high schoolers reported a similar fitness regimen.

With this amount of activity, Rhode Island places 24th lowest out of 36 ranked states according to 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research.

An effort to increase professional development opportunities reported by RI KIDS COUNT was #RecessRocksinRI – a collaborative effort by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition and Playworks New England to educate PE teachers about how to increase physical activity in elementary school recess sessions.

Through this programming, 99 elementary school teachers and instructors from 18 schools in Rhode Island received #RecessRocksinRI training, according to the report. Eighteen additional schools will receive this training in 2017.

RI KIDS COUNT said in order to improve PE teacher training there needs to be annual professional development opportunities as well as training for all educators on how to incorporate more physical activity into their curricula.

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