A Multilevel Analysis of the Relationship between Physical Education Requirements and Student Academic Achievement in High School
Kim, Sang Min
Valli, Linda R.
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Although national recommendations and guidelines have called for schools to play a greater role in enhancing physical activity through physical education to prevent sedentary lifestyles or physical inactivity of children and adolescents, many schools have reduced or eliminated physical education time or programs despite state or district mandates. These policies and practices are often part of schools’ efforts to increase students’ standardized test scores given the pressures of accountability reforms in education. Guided by Argyris and Schön’s (1974) theory of action, the effectiveness of schools’ policies and practices of decreasing or eliminating physical education time or programs to improve students’ academic achievement was tested in this study. In particular, this study aimed to examine the relationship between schools’ physical education graduation requirements and students’ academic achievement growth in reading, mathematics, and science in high school settings. To this end, the study used a multilevel analysis from a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. high schoolers from the NELS database. Results showed that time requirements of physical education for graduation were either positively or neutrally related to student academic achievement growth in mathematics and science while time requirements of physical education for graduation had only a neutral relation to student academic achievement growth in reading, after controlling for student, family, and school characteristics. Also, there were gender differences in the relations between time requirements of physical education for graduation and student academic achievement growth in mathematics and science with no gender difference found in reading. Overall, although there was not strong evidence that more time requirements of physical education for graduation were associated with higher student academic achievement growth, the findings of this study indicate that certain time requirements of physical education for graduation are positively associated with student academic achievement growth especially in mathematics and science. The findings of the study further imply that increased time requirements schools set aside for physical education for graduation do not decrease or compromise student academic achievement growth in the three core high school subjects.