Wednesday, August 19, 2009

State education board seeks limits on PE classes

Also refer to an earlier post to this blog Some worry new high school rule will allow students to load up on sports, band" highlighting the concerns that led up to the SBOE's propsal.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – State Board of Education members asked staffers Friday to propose rules that would limit the number of physical education credits high school students could count in meeting Texas' new graduation requirements.

Board members said they are concerned that a new state law changing the requirements could allow some students to take more than a fourth of their classes in PE or PE substitutes such as athletics, cheerleading and marching band.

Lawmakers increased the number of electives that most students can take in high school, but they put few restrictions on what classes can be used to meet the new course requirements.

"This is a real temptation to game the system," said board member Geraldine Miller, R-Dallas. "We can't allow some students to get easy A's by taking so many PE credits."

Miller and other board members asked the Texas Education Agency staff to bring back recommendations in September that would restrict the number of credits a student could earn in physical education.

As it stands, students in the "Recommended High School Program" – the plan followed by most – could take up to seven credits in PE or PE substitutes as part of the 26 credits required for graduation. That includes one required PE credit – equal to two semesters – and six electives.

'Enrichment' courses

In the past, students were limited to two credits in PE and PE substitutes during their four years of high school.

While the board has some authority over graduation standards, it cannot add new requirements that affect "enrichment" courses – generally those available to students as elective classes.

However, education agency officials told the board Friday that it does have authority over which classes can count as substitute courses in a subject and whether the number of substitute courses should be limited in meeting graduation standards.

Board members will be presented with a range of options in September. The standards cannot be changed for the coming school year, which in most school districts begins on Aug. 24. But new rules could be implemented for the 2010-11 school year.

House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, author of the legislation, said while he never considered the possibility of a student having so many PE credits, he is not worried that a large number of students will follow that path.

"I don't think it's going to happen," said Eissler, R-The Woodlands. "And if a bunch of kids tried to do that, local school officials could step in and adjust their course requirements. That's what we call local control."

Potential for abuse

Eissler also noted that students will have to take rigorous academic classes under the state's "four-by-four" requirements, mandating four years of instruction in English, math, science and social studies.

But Miller and other board members see it differently.

"Kids are kids, and we know this could become an option for some," she said. "We need safeguards to prevent any abuses like this."

Some board members said they also think the Legislature may have made a mistake in eliminating health education and computer technology as course requirements in high school. So they have asked the staff to study whether those courses could be made mandatory in middle schools or junior high schools.

Already, the board was told Friday, many districts have decided under local policy to keep health education and computer technology as required courses in high school, at least for the coming school year.

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