State and district policy influences on district-wide elementary and middle school physical education practices

J Public Health Manag Pract. 2013 May-Jun;19(3 Suppl 1):S41-S48. 
Authors: Chriqui JF, Eyler A, Carnoske C, Slater S.

Objective: To examine the influence of state laws and district policies on district-wide elementary school and middle school practices related to physical education (PE) time and the percentage of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) time during PE. Design: Multivariate, cross-sectional analysis of state laws, district wellness and PE policies, and district PE practices for school year 2010-2011 controlling for district-level urbanicity, region, size, race/ethnicity of students, and socioeconomic status and clustered on state. Setting: One hundred ninety-five public school districts located in 42 states. Participants: District-level PE coordinators for the included districts who responded to an online survey. Main Outcome Measure: Minutes and days of PE per week and percent time spent in MVPA during PE time. Results: District PE coordinators reported significantly less PE time than national standards -- 82.9 and 189.6 minutes at the elementary school and middle school levels, respectively. Physical education was provided an average of 2.5 and 3.7 days per week, respectively; and the percentage of MVPA time in PE was 64.4% and 65.7%, respectively. At the elementary school level, districts in either states with laws governing PE time or in a state and district with a law/policy reported significantly more days of PE (0.63 and 0.67 additional days, respectively), and districts in states with PE time laws reported 18 more minutes of PE per week. At the middle school level, state laws were associated with 0.73 more days of PE per week. Neither state laws nor district policies were positively associated with percent MVPA time in PE. Conclusions: State laws and district policies can influence district-level PE practices -- particularly those governing the frequency and duration of PE -- although opportunities exist to strengthen PE-related laws, policies, and practices.

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