CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia public schools are making progress in their efforts to improve student health and wellness under the state’s Healthy Lifestyles Act.
West Virginia’s elementary and middle schools are meeting requirements to provide physical education or an acceptable alternative, the state Board of Education learned Wednesday during its October meeting. In addition, the percentage of elementary schools completely meeting or exceeding the time requirement without an alternative plan has slightly increased each year since the requirement was enacted.
The Legislature passed the Healthy Lifestyles Act in 2005 to fight the growing epidemics of childhood obesity and resulting health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. The legislation required elementary schools to provide 30 minutes of physical education at least three times a week. Middle schools are to provide one full period of PE each school day for one semester. High schools are to require one physical education credit for graduation and one lifetime physical education offering.
“Whether it’s physical activity, proper nutrition or health education, West Virginia is committed to providing a healthy and safe environment for our students in public schools,” said state Superintendent Steve Paine. “The bottom line is healthy students have a greater capacity to learn and are ultimately more successful in school and life.”
In addition to increase physical activity, West Virginia’s law required the state board to design a program that included fitness testing and a health education assessment. Melanie Purkey, executive director of the Office of Healthy Schools, told the board that trend data indicates the state’s Fitnessgram assessments are being conducted uniformly throughout the state. The majority of students are performing in the Healthy Fitness Zone in all areas with little change in each testing category for the past four years, she said.
Still, schools could improve participation in the Health Education Assessment Project. While the percentage of schools participating in HEAP has increased considerably, the percentage of eligible students participating in the assessment of health knowledge is just slightly over half at 52 percent.
“Much work needs to be done to increase participation to 100 percent of eligible students,” Purkey said. “Middle school scores indicate that foundational knowledge is not being mastered at the elementary level.”
To combat the problem, the West Virginia Healthy Lifestyles Act Implementation Report, calls for counties to include the Local Wellness Plan in their Five Year Strategic Plan process, giving specific attention to the development of improvement strategies to meet Healthy Lifestyles Act requirements. The report also recommends tying professional development to the Healthy Lifestyles Act requirements and including monitoring the law’s requirements in the accountability review process.
The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is committed to ensuring all students in the state are college and career ready when they graduate from a public school. What West Virginia students are learning in school exceeds national and international standards. Through the WVDE's 21st century learning plan called Global21: Students deserve it. The world demands it, West Virginia is seeing better student performance on the West Virginia Educational Standards Test 2 (WESTEST2); the SAT and the ACT, college entrance exams; the job skills assessment called Work Keys given to career and technical education students; and in a high school graduation rate that exceeds the national average.
For more information, contact the Office of Healthy Schools at 304-558-8830 or the Office of Communications at 304-558-2699.
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