West Branch PE teachers raising fitness standards

BELOIT-West Branch physical education teachers are incorporating new state standards in their classes this year, which will hopefully help raise awareness about the importance of physical activity at home, they reported at the regular school board meeting Thursday.

Chris Tucker, the physical education teacher at Damascus Elementary, presented to the board ways in which the teachers have altered their teaching styles to include new benchmark assessments in grades kindergarten through 12 established by the Ohio Department of Education. The new standards will be monitored on the ODE’s local report cards beginning with the 2012-13 school year.

According to Tucker, the standards were first instituted in 2007, with benchmarks and indicators added in 2009 to show how students are performing at certain points in their student careers and after each grade level.

With the passage of the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act in June 2010, he said schools have been asked to give students a better opportunity for healthier foods and drinks, as well as attain four standards that will be included on future local report cards -meet the benchmarks, comply with a local wellness policy, collect Body Mass Index (BMI) data and institute an opt-in program that promotes at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity for the students.

“I think we do a good job here at West Branch,” Tucker said. “We have a lot of activities for the kids to be involved in and parents who take a role in getting them involved.”

Tucker said the standards reported on the local report cards are not high-stakes testing, but a way to raise public awareness of what the district is doing to combat childhood obesity and how well the teachers are doing.

“It allows us to not let students who are obese become obese (in the first place),” he said. “We’re constantly looking for new ways (to fight obesity) that come about. This lets the public know what we’re doing and how these things can benefit the parents and the school district, too.”

The teachers also shared ways in which they are incorporating the standards in their classes. There is more involvement outside of class, they said, with material to monitor their activity being sent home to parents. There is also more emphasis being given to learning what they are doing in class rather than just doing, such as studying the mechanics of throwing a ball and not just throwing it.

The teachers also told the board that they have been able to use technology such as iPads to record the benchmark data and that the ability to use that technology has made it possible to save time by assessing the students in the field rather than recording their marks back inside at a desk.