- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Board of Education provided information and opened testimony Monday on new physical education standards meant to encourage students to maintain physically active lifestyles.

At the elementary school level, the standards focus on fundamental motor skills. In middle school, students apply those motor skills. In high school, the emphasis is on fitness and wellness.

Five general standards break down into a list of specific performance outcomes for students at various grade levels. Sixth and seventh graders, for example, should be able to catch a variety of objects from a variety of trajectories.

“The standards identify knowledge and skills students should know and be able to do and provide a framework for schools and teachers to design their own curriculum, instruction and assessments,” said Becky Nelson, curriculum administrator with the Department of Education.

South Dakota regularly reviews all of its standards. The physical education standards were last reviewed in 2000, and requirements for graduation date to 2006.

One change would include requiring students to show they know how to enhance their health through physical activity. The existing standard calls for students to be physically active “to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.”

Tracy Nelson who teaches physical education teachers at South Dakota State University and served on the standards committee said student needs have changed since the standards were last updated.

“We have a lot more kids who are sedentary,” she said. She added that the focus has shifted from sports preparation to life skills.

No opponents spoke against the standards at Monday’s hearing at Northern State University in Aberdeen. Some people called into the hearing rather than attending in person. Supporters have said schools need to dedicate enough time to physical education to achieve the new goals.

The standards were developed by a work group including teachers and professionals that met this past school year. They draw on national set of standards, which were tweaked for South Dakota students. Tracy Nelson said the committee removed cricket from the list of activities, for example, because that sport is not popular in the Midwest.

Both the Associated School Boards of South Dakota and the School Administrators of South Dakota approved the standards.

Physical Therapist Laura Bonsness has submitted detailed remarks on the standards.

“To achieve the proposed PE standards in South Dakota, the teachers for physical education and health must be given the appropriate time in the school day, school week and each semester of every school year to accomplish this,” Bonsness said. “Our current statistics regarding time requirements for physical education and activity in schools correlates with the increasing decline in health we are seeing in our children.”

The board plans to hold two more hearings before taking action on the standards.